- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 19, 2002

In the words of Isaiah: "They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."

In the words of Thomas Hobbes: "The condition of man is a condition of war of every one against every one."

The gulf between these two sentences, one based on hope, the other on experience, is bridged by a doctrine that goes back to the church fathers, Saint Augustine and Thomas Aquinas: the doctrine of Just War.

Is it possible to create a rational framework for war-making? When is it moral to use force? Is it ever moral to use force when it endangers the lives of civilians let alone combatants? It has been estimated that 500,000 American lives would have been lost had a land invasion of Japan been necessary in World War II. Was President Truman morally justified in ordering the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which cost millions of civilian casualties, even though they were war industry centers?

Whether or not Saddam Hussein really blinked or not, the "just war" question will be with us for generations to come even though it has received little public discussion. Yet the "just war" issue is central to the debate about a pre-emptive strike against Iraq. I think a good case can be made why such an assault on Saddam Hussein's dictatorship would fulfill the requirements of the "just war" doctrine.

St. Augustine of Hippo was the first major Christian theologian to define the circumstances under which war is legitimate: it had to be fought for the right reasons, and waged under rightful authority. Augustine held that the purpose of the war-making powers of the state is to ensure peace, which in turn helps to foster the common good of those in society.

St. Thomas Aquinas argued that three conditions must be met for a war to be just:

(1) It is begun on competent authority.

(2) There is a just cause for war, "namely that those who are attacked are attacked because they deserve it on account of some wrong they have done."

(3) And that there is a right intention, namely, seeking "the advancement of good and the avoidance of evil."

More recently, Dr. James Turner Johnson has added four "prudential tests": It must (a) be expected to produce a preponderance of good over evil, (b) have a reasonable hope of success, (c) be a last resort and (d) have peace as its expected outcome.

Professor Turner's essay can be found in a book published by the Ethics and Public Policy Center, "Close Calls." The volume, a collection of essays on "just war" theory was edited by its then director, Elliott Abrams, now a staff member of the National Security Council.

The "just war" doctrine can be applied to Iraq where Saddam Hussein has been an aggressor in two wars against Iran and Kuwait, has been guilty of using poison gas on his people and against the Iranian armies. During the Gulf war, he fired 39 Scud missiles against Israel, which was not a combatant and which had purposely been excluded from the U.N.-organized coalition.

There can be no question that ridding the Middle East of Saddam Hussein would mean "the advancement of good."

Is there a just cause for war against Iraq? Saddam violated the U.N. agreements when he ousted the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM ) from Iraq Aug. 5, 1998. That was the last day UNSCOM inspectors were allowed to intrude into Iraq's byways seeking Saddam Hussein's hidden store of weapons of mass destruction.

Even if the inspectors are allowed in, we have yet to see whether they actually will be allowed to operate unconditionally or are we going to be flimflammed again. But the "just war" question remains alive.

Saddam has had plenty of time since 1998 to distribute his weapons of mass destruction outside Iraq itself in many places where the al Qaeda has been and is still operating. Al Qaeda terrorists have been located, thus far, in the U.S., Canada, Germany, England, France, Sweden, Pakistan, Afghanistan and I'm sure there's a second team and a third team. If Saddam Hussein's 23-year record as Iraq's dictator is placed alongside the "just war" criteria, action against him is long overdue.

Henry Kissinger's recent Los Angeles Times article describing the Iraq crisis, fits the criteria for just war whether or not Saddam blinked :

"But the terrorist threat transcends the nation-state; it derives in large part from transnational groups that, if they acquire weapons of mass destruction, could inflict catastrophic damage. That threat is compounded when these weapons are being built in direct violation of U.N. resolutions by a ruthless autocrat who sought to annex one of his neighbors and attacked another, with a demonstrated record of hostility toward America and the existing international system. The case is all the stronger because Saddam Hussein expelled U.N. inspectors who were installed as part of the settlement of the Persian Gulf war."


Arnold Beichman is a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and a columnist for The Washington Times.

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