Re: [Fwd: Theological reflection on Just War]

From: Jonathan Clarke (
Date: Thu Oct 25 2001 - 17:30:44 EDT

  • Next message: Jonathan Clarke: "Re: Theological reflection on Just War"

    Hi George

    Some editing and addition of initials to people (certainly me at any
    rate) keep track of who said what.

    george murphy wrote:

    >> JC The US constant appeal to the international community on one hand
    >> and yet ignoring or flouting it on the other is hypocritical. So is
    >> its criticism of
    >> countries which violate international agreements and yet the US
    >> administration seems to
    >> think it can unilaterally break agreements. This is "might is
    >> right" logic, the
    >> justification of the bully at all scales. Seeing ourselves as other
    >> see us is rarely
    >> flattering, but often humbling and therefore helpful.
    > GM As I noted, the US has certainly made mistakes. The question now
    > is whether or not those mistakes are the reason for terrorist attacks
    > on the US. They aren't, as I argue below.
    >> JC Radicals and extremists don't grow in a vacuum. As I said
    >> before, the US needs to
    >> consider why it is so hated. Even if friendly countries there is
    >> widespread mistrust of
    >> motives and suspicion of methods. The US must think why this is
    >> so. Only by addressing
    >> these concerns will the climate of opinion change - and it will take
    >> decades.
    > GM You are conflating two quite different concerns here. It's one
    > thing for European countries, e.g., to criticize the present
    > administration's policy with regard to global warming or development
    > of a missile defence. The hatred of the US by Islamic radicals has
    > little if anything to do with such questions. A lot of US policies
    > need critical attention, but it's a red herring to focus on US
    > failings without giving serious attention to aspects of Islam which
    > are incompatible with the type of society for which the US, together
    > with other modern nations, has tried - albeit fallibly - to achieve.

    JC There are many separate issues but together create an attitude of
    suspicion. The US loses a lot of good will from people who might be
    sympathetic because of it. It is not a red herring to focus on systemic
    US policy failings in this area when they have contributed to the
    environment that allows such hatred to grow. The majority of the world
    people live in countries that have values incompatible with militant
    Islam, but are not subject to the same degree of hatred. However there
    is a danger that these countries may become collateral victims of hatred
    primarily directed at the US.

    >> GM b) The existence of a state of Israel - NB, not any details of
    >> Israeli
    >> > policy but the reality of any such state in what is supposed to be
    >> the territory of
    >> > Islam - is anathema to them. US defence of the right of Israel to
    >> exist is then a
    >> > primary reason for hatred.
    >> JC Again, the extreme one-sidedness of the US's support of Israel
    >> does not help the
    >> situation
    > GM In the first place, US support for the policies of Isreal has not
    > been extremely one-sided. In particular, the US pushed Israel for
    > years along the road of the "peace process", culminating in the offer
    > made to Arafat in 2000. But the US has supported the existence of
    > Israel, & it's that to which the Arabs have been opposed - even before
    > Israel occupied the Temple Mount, even before theie were any
    > settlements on the West Bank.

    JC This is clearly a matter of perception. The US role in trying broker
    peace deals in the Middle East is highly commendable, and certainly at
    times the US has criticized some Israeli actions, as happened in the
    last few days. However the fact remains that overall the perception is
    that the US is not even handed. The enormous financial support to the
    state of Israel from the US government and private groups in the US, the
    fact that the Israeli military is largely supplied by US equipment
    reinforces this perception. Again, try and see this as others see it.
    Many countries voted for the state of Israel, most countries maintain
    good relations with it - so why are they not the same target?

    >> GM The most recent military action of the US that might be
    >> characterized as
    >> > "bully-boy" is the attack on Serbia. The fact that this was in
    >> support of a largely
    >> > Muslim population should give some pause to anyone who claims that
    >> such actions
    >> > provide a reason for Islamic radicals to hate the US.
    >> JC Yes they were a great success weren't they?
    > GM Did I say that this action was a "success"? Did I say that it was
    > a good idea? No. I brought it up only to point out how selective
    > Muslims have been in criticizing US policy - a point which you finally
    > concede below.

    JC Not finally, I have always recognised this, it was about the only
    good thing to be said for the Somali fiasco, something I recongised at
    the time. It was a pity, because it was well meant, but poorly thought

    >> They destroyed only a small amount of
    >> military equipment, killed almost as many civilians as the Serbs,
    >> and the Serbs left
    >> Kosovo only because of the threat of ground forces, which were
    >> spear-headed by the
    >> Russians and British. The Kosvars (or at least the KLA) then showed
    >> their true colours
    >> doing to the Serbs as had been done to them, and then proceeded to
    >> destabilize
    >> Macedonia. However, I will concede that the whole disgraceful
    >> affair does show that the
    >> west will intervene on behalf of Muslims, as was the attempted
    >> intervention in Somalia.
    > Don't forget attacks on baby milk factories and pharmaceutical
    > plants, the immoral and
    >> poorly thought out sanctions on Iraq.
    > & of course do forget all the actions of the Iraqi government
    > against Kuwait and its own people - as well as the fact that sanctions
    > would be unnecessary if Saddam Hussein were not so intent on
    > developing ABC weapons, & that they wouldn't have the effect they do
    > if he & his cronies weren't spending the money they have on building
    > palaces.
    > In retrospect it's clear that the US made a mistake in not
    > pursuing the Gulf War to the destruction of the Iraqi army & Saddam
    > Hussein's government. But that would have required more, not less,
    > military action.

    I totally disagree. The war against Iraq and its explosion from Kuwait
    was totally justified and sanctioned by the UN. Their annexation of
    Kuwait was the most blatant act of aggression since WWII. There was no
    sanction to occupy Iraq and any attempt to do so would have resulted in
    the collapse of the alliance, as not only Arab and western powers would
    have pulled out.

    >> Do not get me wrong. Past and present US failures do not justify
    >> such an atrocity as
    >> September 11. Justice requires that the perpetrators of such evil
    >> acts must be brought
    >> to account, or eliminated. However this does not give the US a carte
    >> blanche.
    > I.e., in terms of the just war doctrine, the conditions for
    > going to war (jus ad bellum) have been satisfied. The remaining
    > question is whether the conditions for conduct of the war (jus in
    > bello) are satisfied.

    JC The issue is whether action against a small group of terrorists be
    called a war. Especially when waging war against a country that is
    allegedly harbouring them is supposed the way to deal with the problem.
    We have not seen the justification for this war in the sense of the
    alleged ties between the Taliban and Bin Laden. It has to be taken on
    faith. What hope can see, even if you do not agree, many of us in the
    rest of the world find this a bigger ask than you do.

    >> JC Terrorism is an international problem. Many countries have
    >> fought terrorism, and the
    >> lessons are clear. It must be both contained by immediate action
    >> and the conditions that
    >> promote eliminate it. Those countries that have followed this
    >> approach - essentially
    >> seeing it as a social and police issue rather than a simple military
    >> one are those that
    >> have had a measure of success against terrorism. One would have
    >> hoped that the US would
    >> have seen from Russian and Israeli examples that the brute force
    >> approach fails.
    > GM For the Islamic radicals, the only way the causes of their rage
    > could be eliminated would be for western societies to convert to Islam
    > or cease to exist. There may have been a point at which police action
    > could have dealt with the present terrorist threat, but that time is
    > past. The point of the just war doctrine is that sometimes force is
    > the best of bad choices, & its conditions are intended to make the use
    > of force as un-brutal as possible.

    JC The policy you are advocating has already killed hundreds, displaced
    millions and in a few more weeks will kill more non combatants that died
    in on September 11 It will simply cause greater hatred and radicalize
    more Muslims to presently do not support the extremists. This has been
    the Israeli and Russian experience. What evidence is there that the US
    will experience things any different? As I hope I have indicated before,
    I support the just war position. I don't think that in this bombing
    Afghanistan is justifed as the best means to deal with the problem. It
    does met the popular desire for revenge and therefore makes a lot of
    sense in terms of internal US politics. Whether it is good for the rest
    of the world remains to be seen.


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