Just War: Strategy and Tactics by David J. Ulbrich

Ulbrich, David J., “Just War: Strategy and Tactics,” Responses to the War by Philosophy Majors, Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Spring 1991).

The concept of ethics being applied to warfare may perhaps seem in some views to be an immoral contradiction in terms. Other contrary views may presume that there is a very questionable place for any ethical criticism on an amoral battlefield. These viewpoints are recognizable as pacifism and warism. According to Duane Cady’s book, From Warism to Pacifism A Moral Continuum, viewing ethics of warfare in these two relative extremes is too simplistic. One must also comprehend that the potential danger of massive destruction in warfare is especially poignant in the twentieth century with nuclear, chemical, and biological capabilities.

I am in the Augustinian just-war tradition. I believe that there are certain instances in which war can be morally justified. For example, a war, either in defense of one’s own country or in defense of another defenseless country, could be morally fought. I feel that the Persian Gulf conflict would be an example of the latter case. Hussein’s Iraq had valid claims against Kuwait. But Iraq had no justification for invasion. In fact, I would venture to state that the commonly-used phrase “No War For Oil” was more applicable to Iraq than to the U.S. When told to leave or else face the consequences, Hussein stubbornly stood his ground. Being left with no legitimate recourse, the United States with allies set about to liberate Kuwait and neutralize Hussein’s forces.

A good way to discuss warfare is to differentiate between jus ad bellum (“when to fight”) and jus in bello (“how to fight”). In examining the Persian Gulf conflict, one can see relative separation between the “when” and “how” to fight. It is clear that President Bush was directing the overall strategy of the war or the jus ad bellum, but he clearly also left the tactics to the military leadership. In For the Common Defense by military historians Millet and Mazlowski, strategy is the general concept for using military force in obtaining the goals of war (xiii).

Leaving tactics–the jus in bello–to the military and its own qualified leadership makes good sense. Again, from Millet and Mazlowski, tactics differs from strategy in that “[t]actics is the actual conduct battle, the application of fire and maneuver by fighting units in order to destroy the physical ability and will of the enemy’s Armed Forces (xiii, emphasis added). The Persian Gulf conflict’s tactics involved a massive air assault which not only broke the Iraqi army’s material ability to fight but also their psychlogical ability to fight. Only when the Iraqi army had been thoroughly suppressed from the air was there a ground assault. It is also important to note that the United States made an intentional effort, when possible, not to kill innocents or noncombatants.

All-in-all, I feel the Persian Gulf conflict was a “just” war.

David J. Ulbrich is a sophomore history and philosophy major at the University of Dayton.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: