Thomas Aquinas War Theory: Main Ideas


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Conflict’s – War on Iraq at a balanced view

Just War Theory

After a few attempts of outlining the rules of a “Just War” Thomas Aquinas finally presented his version and it seemed the most acceptable.

You have a just cause, said Aquinas, when you are defending yourself. You have to have right authority (be a government), you need to have a right intention (not just love violence), you need to have a good outcome (more good should result than the evil of violence), you need to be proportional (not use more force than necessary), you need to have a reasonable hope for success (peace should result), and it must be the very last resort (all diplomacy must be exhausted).

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War on Iraq is hard to justify. There are those who believe that Bush did not follow the Just War Theory when he declared war on Iraq. Yet there are also those who believe that Bush made the right decision and did, more or less, consider the Just War Theory.

Did Bush oppose the Just War Theory?

Susan B. Thistlethwaite wrote a report in November 2002 stating that in her opinion, president Bush went COMPLETELY against the Just War Theory, ‘it is Americans who have become the

Barbarians’ she mentions in her report

The first rule of the Just War Theory in most sources is to have a just cause, which is the right to defend yourself. Though it could also be comprehended as having a “good” reason for going to war. If the just cause means self defense, then in some peoples opinion, president Bush was only defending himself from a pre-emptive attack. He believed that Iraq held weapons of mass destruction (WMD) though he has been yet unable to come up with any “strong” evidence to support this assumption.

On the other hand, some people feel that the criterion of a Just cause is about serious “wrongs” to be repaired or prevented. In this sense, there is little question that Iraq’s recent actions constitute serious wrongs. It has used chemical weapons against Iran and against its own people, has biological weapons and has wanted for years to develop nuclear weapons. Saddam Hussein has gone to great lengths to hide evidence of these weapons and has apparently shown no conscience about using violence against his neighbours or his own people. Evidence of Iraq holding weapons of mass destruction is thus far unconvincing. Nevertheless the situation calls for strong action of some kind to prevent the evils he might inflict.

The second rule outlined was “right authority”. In other words, one person cannot start a war. The authority for military action on this matter would have had to be given to George W. Bush from another body – that is, the U.S. Congress. The resolution passed in 2002 allows for military force, that’s only if Bush needed Military force. However, it does not say that the need for military force had arisen, which was why Bush was still dealing with the United Nations for months after the resolution was passed – he still hadn’t convinced anyone that he deserved the authority to go to war, but decided to “manipulate the text” of the Congressional resolution to declare that the level of threat requiring military action had taken place.

In the opinion of those who strongly agreed in going to war, Saddam Hussein poses a greater threat then we all think. Hussein has no desire to negotiate, except as Hitler once did. He delays international diplomacy to advance in his creation of weapons of mass destruction, to hold back his neighbours by force or intimidation. Hussein has already made two obvious attempts to conquer two close neighbours in just the past fifteen years. Those failed attempts taught him only that he needs more powerful weapons if he is to successfully conquer his empire.

He has continually engaged in illegal trade deals to finance his military ambitions and lust for power, even as his people die from lack of medical care, food or other basic needs.

Our ‘right authority’ was previously created by Hussein’s repeated violations of the very first truce agreements following the liberation of Kuwait in 1991. Historically and internationally, the law of war holds that breaking a truce justifies a continuation of fighting at the point that the original conflicts were terminated under the agreement. The U.S. has, therefore, a previously established ‘right authority’ to proceed with action against Iraq even without the recent passage of UN Resolution 1441, or any other additional resolutions. . The U.S. is not, however, required to continue to wait on the UN while Iraq’s gaining and use of weapons of mass destruction.

The third law of the Just War Theory is “right intention” meaning that you can’t go to war just because you love violence (as tedious as it sounds), you must intend to bring peace, or some sort of good out of the pain and suffering that is likely to be inflicted.

Again, those who assume that Bush was wrong in declaring war also believe that Bush did not have a right intention, especially if he didn’t have a just cause (right to self-defence). As most are seeing, “almost on a daily basis” Bush did not have a just cause.:

Was Saddam a threat to use biological or chemical weapons against American citizens?

Not that we know of.

Was Saddam in league with terrorists who preferred to attack American citizens at home?


Was Saddam trying to reconstitute a nuclear program?

Evidence presented, was termed “unconvincing”.

Therefore those who oppose war on Iraq did not find a just cause; consequently there is no basis for a right intention.

And again in the opinion of those who support War on Iraq Hussein is not only actively aiding and abetting, internationally, terrorist efforts, he has built dedicated terrorist training camps within Iraq. The government of Iraq is actively and aggressively providing radiological, chemical, biological weapons training and poisons training to Al Qaeda and Taleban operatives, as well as known Palestinian terrorists. Saddam Hussein’s government officials and intelligence services are providing money, technology, training, support and headquarters facilities for international terrorist operations, even within the city limits of Baghdad. This gives the terrorists ready transit points to be mobile and access targets in the West. The government of Iraq directly supports the interests of these terrorist organizations to obtain even greater weapons of mass destruction, as well as the sophisticated delivery systems to inflict maximum civilian casualties on the West. Therefore, Bush going to war not only means that Saddam is unlikely in continuing his illegal trade of WMD’s, but it means that allowing military force into Iraq gives us greater chance of uncovering active terrorist groups, terrorist networks, training camps etc. thus brining peace and having a right intention.

The fourth criterion of the Just War Theory is “proportionality” (not using more force than necessary).

This rule is by far the easiest. It is apparent that Bush is unlikely to sink down to the level of Saddam Hussein by poisoning innocent Iraqi victims in chambers. So far, Bush has been unsuccessful in capturing most of them, and those who have been caught haven’t been punished to the extent of biological or chemical devices. Iraq has not made any effort in fighting back; therefore Bush would achieve nothing if he decided to destroy the whole country with a weapon of mass destruction.

Those who oppose the war probably believe that Bush has made a huge mistake in the terms of “proportionality” when he unnecessarily bombed innocent homes, only to find Saddam wasn’t even there.

The last rule of Thomas Aquinas’s Just War Theory is “Last Resort”. This is that war must be the last resort; all diplomacy/peace talks must have failed.

For those who opposed the war, it’s hard for them to look at the evidence that’s been presented and say that Iraq constituted an undeniable military threat to the world that couldn’t be dealt with any other way but through military means. Inspectors were allowed in the country to look for WMD and production facilities that seemed to be either vastly reduced or entirely disappeared. How does someone claim that military force is required as a last resort to prevent a threat that may not even exist? Bush and Co. assumed that Saddam was aiming to attack certain countries, including the U.S with WMD’s, and decided to launch a pre-emptive attack. But wont an attack on Iraq mean that Iraq will be even more likely to attack the U.S out of spite? Yes Bush thought Saddam was a threat, but it was unlikely that Saddam was going to attack in the next few day’s especially at a time where many American’s may still be getting through the shock of losing a family member in the September 11th attack. Just like Osama bin laden, it would make sense to attack when they’d least expect it so why did Bush assume that he had to go to war, when there we definitely alternatives open to him?

For instance one is to extend U.N. inspections by months or even years. As long as the inspectors are doing their work, the Iraqis are unlikely to make progress toward nuclear weapons or to attack anyone. And the longer inspection goes on, the more opportunity the United States has to build broad international support.

Another alternative is deterrence. It worked for nearly half a century against the Soviet Union, which had leaders as crooked and threatening as Saddam Hussein. The administration claims that Saddam cannot be deterred, but he has never gone to war where a clear deterrent threat was present. Not to persist with inspection and deterrence is not to have arrived at last resort.

On the other hand those who strongly agree with war must feel that Saddam Hussein can not be put on hold while the U.N discuss other means of ending his regime, “wasting” time in that sense would allow Saddam Hussein to progress further with his production of WMD’s. Hussein is a modern day Hitler. He must be stopped before his weapons enable him to project his will over the many millions of innocents in his own region. The mobility and secrecy of his new delivery systems allow him to export his weapons and terrorist attacks through such surrogates as the Taleban and Al Qaeda onto the shores of the United States of America and their allies.

Overall, I really have no opinion in whether the War on Iraq can be justified. Though after producing this I have respect for Bush, he may not have completely followed the Just War theory in some people’s view, but he did what he thought was right. After the September 11th attack, he was pressurized in resolving the situation. There has been evidence of WMD’s and as unconvincing as they are, they could still be true. Would it be right to take a risk and leave Iraq and Saddam they way it is just because “sufficient” evidence wasn’t found? After all, the situation in Iraq has dragged on for decades and the Iraqi citizens were being slaughtered without reason. It was about time something was done and with Saddam being a firm Stalinist it was unlikely that diplomacy would have affected him in any way.

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