Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Is War in Libya Just?

Are the recent military events in Libya just? Is going to war with Libya just? It is rarely easy to make that decision, and the Vatican has not indicated its support/opposition to military involvement in Libya.

Here are the criteria for a just war:

"Jus ad Bellum": Criteria that must be met in order for a war to be considered just.
  • Just Cause: War is permissible only to confront “a real and certain danger,” i.e. to protect innocent life, to preserve conditions necessary for decent human life existence, and to basic human rights.
  • Competent Authority: The right to use force must be joined with the common good; war must be declared by those with responsibility for public order, not by private groups or individuals.
  • Comparative Justice: No state should act on the basis that it has “absolute justice” on its side. Every party to a conflict must acknowledge the limits of its “just cause” and the consequent requirement to use only limited means in pursuit of its objectives.
  • Right Intention: War can be legitimately intended for only the reasons set forth as a just cause.
  • Last Resort: For war to be justified, all peaceful alternatives must have been exhausted.
  • Probability of Success: This is a difficult criterion to apply, but its purpose is to prevent irrational resort to force or hopeless resistance when the outcome of either will clearly be disproportionate or futile
  • Proportionality: The destruction to be inflicted and the costs incurred by war must be proportionate to the good expected by taking up arms. Destruction applies in both the temporal and spiritual sense.

"Jus in Bello": Criteria that must be met in order for actions within war to be considered just.
  • Discrimination: This criterion requires that actions within a war must never be “total war”, nuclear war, and must never target civilian populations or non-military targets.
  • Proportionality: Destruction caused by actions in war must be proportionate to the good expected by the actions. Destruction applies in both the temporal and spiritual sense.

It is difficult to say whether recent actions by the U.S. and other nations are just or not. It is unclear what the objective is, as France and the U.S. don't seem to be unified on that issue. A just cause could be to protect citizens of Libya, but is that the reason for the military actions? Have we exhausted all peaceful alternatives? Is the destruction proportionate?

I am inclined to say that military action in this case is not just, despite the slaying of civilians in Libya by Gaddafi. Many of the "civilians" are rebels who are wielding weapons themselves. Gaddafi doesn't appear to be a just ruler pursuing the common good, but how do we know the rebels are? It is also difficult to compare this rebellion to the protests in Egypt and other Arab states. I'd rather our involvement be non-militaristic, though I do have sympathy for the people of Libya and the Middle East who do not have the freedoms and democracy that we enjoy in the United States. A unified effort for the common good is needed everywhere, perhaps especially in the Middle East and Africa, but I'm not sure military involvement is the answer.

For more analysis go here:Libya and Just War

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