A few fellow bloggers have expressed their conflicted feelings regarding today’s US attack. My initial reaction is to say that the US military strikes against Libya can/might meet the criteria for a just war, at least for the time being. I would like to explore this possability. I will be using the criteria that I was taught in seminary: Just War as Christian Discipleship (JWCD) as opposed to Just War as Public Policy (JWPP). (NOTE: I thought I had a post showing the difference, but I can’t seem to find it…maybe I just imagined writing it.)
Criteria in Going to War
- Legitimate Authority
- Just Cause
- Right Intent
- Last Resort
- Reasonable Chance of Success
Legitimate Authority: Things get tricky here, if we look at what makes up this criterion, we see that the decision to go to war is one made by the prince, or in this case the President, with the advice of advisers, soldiers and the church (this is in contrast with JWPP where the state can go to war with input from the international community). Clearly, the US has the support of the international community, but the question before us is not one of public policy. Clearly, the President sought the advice of the Joint Chiefs and other governmental officials before making the decision to attack military targets in Libya. Was the advice of the church sought?
Just Cause: Gaddafi was attacking his own citizens to quell the uprising. In this operation, the attacks are other focused against an actual offense. At this time, there is just cause in for these attacks.
Right Intent: To my understanding, the aim of this current operation is the peace of the region. To that extent, yes, there is a right intent.
Last Resort: Maybe, although at this point, I’m leaning towards yes. I do not think Gaddafi would have responded differently to any form of diplomacy.
Reasonable Chance of Success: Is this war winnable? Yes. Do the benefits outweigh the costs? Yes.
Determining if military action is just or unjust is not as simple as counting the yes’s and no’s and seeing which one has more. In other words, there is no exact science here. Others who hold to the just war tradition will disagree with me.
In my assessment, there is a just cause, a right intent, and a reasonable chance for success. I am slightly less certain concerning last resort. Legitimate authority is even more murky.
My initial reaction was to say that the attacks on Libya were justified. I still stand by that initial reaction.
I should point out that this assessment is limited to the current information that I have, that the US and her allies will establish a No Fly Zone for the purpose of preventing further air attacks against the people of Libya. Any further objectives should and will be assessed according to the criteria of the tradition.