US Intervention in Libya and Just War

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

  1. Legitimate Authority
  2. Just Cause
  3. Right Intent
  4. Last Resort
  5. 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.

Update to the post here.


7 thoughts on “US Intervention in Libya and Just War

    • I’m using the President as the figurehead of the state (ie the spokesperson of the state). Of course an official declaration of war has to come from the Senate.

      There’s also the issue of the War Powers Resolution. While not constitutional, it has never been challenged. So long as the provisions of the Resolution are followed, the President is a legitimate authority to deploy troops.

  1. Pingback: No, War Cannot Save Us: Against Intervening in Libya | Political Jesus

  2. You asked the wrong questions, and got the wrong answer. Reasonable chance of success? What is success? Civil war? Are we committed to a resolution? No, we do not even “know” the rebel forces we are supporting. Darfur does not warrent action. Only countries with oil are for consideration. We destablize an area and claim the high ground. The UN is not congress, yet we are at war, or is this a “milatary action”. Have these “rebels” been fighting us in Iraq, or or has it been the “loyalists”? Now you will here we have a “moral responsiblity”, beacuse if we brake it we will own it. France, and England will not play a leadership role, we have now put areselfs in a position that has no clear path, objective, nor even a goal–except Gaddafi must go. This is not reasonable nor is it just.

  3. Pingback: Is Libya a Just War? | Unsettled Christianity

  4. Pingback: I, Too, Am Conflicted Over Libya | Homebrewed Theology

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