Friday, December 18, 2009

President Obama and the Just War Argument

Though President Obama's decision to "surge" in Afghanistan should not have been unexpected by the American public, I was grieved to finally hear the announcement. I was surprised -- and happily -- that he enunciated a defense of the military efforts there in terms of the classic "just war" theory because it seems to me that we Americans always assume our wars to be "just" simply because they always seem to be defending "our freedoms" or "our way of life." In other words, we rarely question our nation, and we do so only on the most selfish level. Even protests against the Viet Nam war for the most part only dwelt on the issue of whether or not America had some kind of national interest at stake, so that if we did NOT have a vested national interest, then we should NOT be fighting in Viet Nam.

Such an explanation flies in the face of classic "just war" arguments. One of the primary qualifications for "just war" in those arguments is that the war CANNOT be fought for selfish purposes.

So, again, it was good to hear our President articulate a logical defense of his decision to surge. In part, it was good to hear because it may become clearer to all of us that this war and the one we are fighting in Iraq are indeed NOT "just." We are invaders in foreign countries; we are attempting to spread our empire; we are not fighting by just means. Thus our wars are not just, according to "just war" theory.

For an insightful analysis of President Obama's speech on the surge, see this short piece by Professor Stanley Hauerwas:

"Peace on earth." (unidentified angels)

1 comment:

Gary said...

Well said, Chip! I love you, and hope that this Christmas brings you time with family and an increased appreciation of our need for peace with God and one another.

P.S. Let me know if you have updates on that December job application thing.