I'm not a war supporter. In fact, I can't think of another military action in my lifetime that I supported. I certainly did not support the invasions of Iraq or Afghanistan. In 2003, I even wrote letters to the English-language newspapers in the Security Council nations. I urged them not to support President Bush's appeal to invade Iraq (based on trumped up WMD allegations). That was when it looked like he cared whether or not the UN approved.
But I like the concept of Just War. The tenets of Just War would justify stopping Hitler's horrors in the late 1930s and limited action to prevent air slaughter by Qaddafi. Here are the key tenets:
- Just cause
- The reason for going to war needs to be just and cannot therefore be solely for recapturing things taken or punishing people who have done wrong; innocent life must be in imminent danger and intervention must be to protect life.
- Comparative justice
- While there may be rights and wrongs on all sides of a conflict, to overcome the presumption against the use of force, the injustice suffered by one party must significantly outweigh that suffered by the other.
- Probability of success
- Arms may not be used in a futile cause or in a case where disproportionate measures are required to achieve success;
- Last resort
- Force may be used only after all peaceful and viable alternatives have been seriously tried and exhausted or are clearly not practical.
- The anticipated benefits of waging a war must be proportionate to its expected evils or harms.
Self-serving means, the usual measure of whether or not the US should get involved, do not impress me. Whether military action is to our advantage is of less interest to me than human rights. Some might argue this makes the US the world's policeman. I disagree. "When in doubt, stay out" would be a good rule. Nor do I argue that the US is a preferred player over an international force. In the case of Libya, the Arab League would have been the preferred players. Unfortunately, too many of them saw themselves as the next Mubarak, the next Qaddafi, and stayed on the sidelines.
So the day after the US jumped in to impose the no-fly zone, my Uncle George insisted that we would now be embroiled in a third Middle East war, that we would not be "in and out" as I maintained. I was sure this president was smarter than the last. After all, he had been very reluctant to take the limited action in the first place, apparently angering Hillary Clinton who argued for it long before he agreed. He knew we needed to pull out of Afghanistan and Iraq, messes he inherited. Why would he now add Libya in any long-term way? I bet George one dollar that within one month, the US would have no presence in Iraq except the possibility of participation in a UN Peacekeeping Force. George was sure I was wrong. And a bit naive.
So today I mail a dollar to Uncle George. I really wanted his dollar instead.