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Articles CPP Newsletter Online V11.1

War with Iraq: Just Another Unjust War by James P. Sterba

Sterba, James, “War with Iraq: Just Another Unjust War,” Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Spring 1991).

The U.S. led war against Iraq has resulted in a popular victory for President Bush and his administration. For many in the U.S., the President’s ability to cope with a myriad of social problems, such as a deepening budget crunch, trade deficits, a $3 trillion national debt, inadequate health care, drug problems, homelessness, deteriorating highways and bridges and a $500 billion savings and loan bailout, seems less important than his ability to triumph over the military forces of Saddam Hussein.

The morality of a war, however, is never determined by whether it produces victory or whether it distracts people from the social problems they face. The morality of the war against Iraq is determined by whether it satisfies the requirements of just war theory, specifically the requirement of just cause that nonbelligerent correctives must be neither hopeless nor too costly, and the requirement of just means that the harm resulting from the use of belligerent means must be neither directly inflicted on innocents nor disproportionate to the military objectives to be attained. Unfortunately, neither of these basic requirements of just war theory were met in the U.S. led war against Iraq.

First, going to war against Iraq was not the last resort because there was strong evidence that the economic sanctions would have worked. In a comparative study of 115 cases where economic sanctions were employed since the beginning of World War I, economic sanctions were effective 34% of the time. In the case of Iraq, the estimated cost of the economic sanctions was 48% of its gross national product, which was three times higher than the cost imposed on any country where sanctions had been successful. So the likelihood that economic sanctions would be successful in the case of Iraq was near 100% if the sanctions were kept in place for about a year. The results of this study were also clearly available to the Bush administration as they were reported in The New York Times two days before Desert Storm began.

Second, war with Iraq also violated the proportionality requirement of just means. Intelligence sources estimated that as many as 150,000 Iraqi soldiers were killed during the war, and the number of civilian deaths could equal that number. A recent United Nations survey of civilian damage caused by allied bombing of Iraq calls the results “near apocalyptic” and claims that the bombing has relegated Iraq to “a pre-industrial age,” warning that the nation could face “epidemic and famine if massive life-supporting needs are not rapidly met.”

During the war, we were shown precision attacks with smart bombs. But after the war was over, we were told that only 7% of the explosives dropped on Iraq and Kuwait were smart bombs and that 70% of the 88,500 tons of bombs dropped on Iraq and Kuwait actually missed their targets, thereby causing extensive collateral damage. There were also a number of opportunities during the war when military action could have been halted or slowed down to allow for a diplomatic solution to develop, which would have meant less damage and fewer casualties, but these opportunities were ignored in the rush to achieve a military victory.

But why do so many people approve of the U.S. led war against Iraq? Is it that they reject the moral requirements of just war theory? Not necessarily. First of all, it may be that they are simply misinformed about the likelihood that an economic blockade would have been successful, although the close vote in the U.S. Senate suggests that many U.S. political leaders were well aware of that likelihood.

Note also that those who favored staying with the economic blockade included such well known moderates and conservatives as Sam Nunn, Lloyd Bensen, Casper Weinberger, and two former Chairs of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral William Crowe and General David Jones. Secondly, so much attention was devoted to the limited damage and the small number of casualties suffered by the U.S. and its allies, that many people failed to appreciate the widespread damage and the large number of casualties suffered by Iraq.

But the proportionality requirements of both just cause and just means demand that we take both types of harm into account. Thirdly, once it appeared that the casualties to the U.S. and its allies could be minimized, many people were attracted to the idea of winning this war with Iraq as though it were like winning a game. After the debacle of Vietnam, many in the U.S. wanted to show the world that their military forces could be victorious again in a large scale war. All of these simply lost sight of the fact that the only justifiable goal of any war is peace with justice.

The irony of it all is that once the full costs of this war for the U.S. and its allies are known, it may turn out that even this war with Iraq, like so many other unjust wars in the past, has only losers.

University of Notre Dame

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Articles CPP Newsletter Online V11.1

The Middle East War by Anselm K. Min

Min, Anselm K., “The Middle East War: The Triumph of Propaganda and Tribalism,” Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Spring 1991).

To be honest, these are days of misery and despair for most of us in the peace movement. The Gulf War has ended, in such a surprisingly short time, in less than one hundred hours of the ground battle, in exactly six weeks since the beginning of the air campaign. The “elite” Republican Guard has been decimated without, so it seems, putting up a single meaningful fight, some eighty thousand Iraqi soldiers have been captured, while the U.S. has suffered less than one hundred casualties. The much talked-about wrath of the Arab world against the United States and the pro-Western Arab regimes, while noisy and visible in some countries, has not amounted to much. Saddam Hussein is finally humilated, and his power base pulverized.

The war has been short, clean, and technologically wondrous. The prayers of many Christians for “our” troops have been heard tenfold. No wonder “patriotic” Americans are gloating all over, the establishment experts enjoying the satisfaction of “I told you so.” The Vietnam syndrome has been kicked once and for all. America has just proven that it is good at something. It can walk tall like America from now on. God bless America!

Amid such misery and despair it is comforting to know that at least the senseless massacre and destruction are not continuing. Even if the war should have been averted in the first place, and even if the war may have sown seeds of greater disasters to come, still it is better that the shooting should stop now than that it should continue to add to the story of suffering whose dimensions are as yet untold.

Again, it hurts, but honesty demands that we congratulate George Bush for his brilliant management of the war and the U.S. public opinion. As a loyal opponent I can only say, “simply brilliant!”.

All this, of course, is not to deny what has happened during the war or what is likely to happen after it is formally ended. A deep anger lingers on at the brilliance with which the war-hungry have successfully manipulated public opinion, the complacency with which the media simply capitulated to the generals, the utter self-righteousness with which both “leaders” and “experts” turned the enemy into an apocalyptic evil, the gullibility with which the public bought the words of the Pentagon and the media, lock, stock, and barrel, the absolute scandal with which the followers of the “prince of peace” turned instant jingoistic nationalists, gloating over the paucity of “friendly” casualties while self-righteously silent over “enemy” casualties and the “collateral damage” done to enemy civilians.

The first casualty of war, as Senator Hiram Johnson said way back in 1917, is truth, but he should have added that the first winner of war is tribalism.

Emerging only now, in small prints, hidden among the massive foreign news dispatches in big prints with catchy titles, is the truth that the administration had known about the mobilization of the Iraqi troops long before their actual invasion of Kuwait in early August. In fact, when approached by the Hussein government about possible U.S. reactions, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, April Gilaspie, under instruction from the state department, explicitly told the Iraqis that the U.S. had no intention of getting involved in the intra-Arab quarrels between Iraq and Kuwait. It is no wonder that the state department has been trying to keep her quiet ever since. It is also reported that in the early months after the invasion the Arab League nations were close to a negotiated settlement but that the negotiations fell through under U.S. pressure. Even the appearance of the state department’s last minute attempt to talk to Hussein turned out to be not so much a negotiation in good faith as a blunt request of abject surrender. All the indications are that Uncle Sam has been dying and working all along for an opportunity and an excuse to get involved.

Equally hidden from the public all these months but emerging only now, after appropriate preparation of the public, is the Bush administration’s ultimate motive for going to war. At first, it said the defense of Saudi Arabia was the purpose of sending some 200,000 troops to the Persian Gulf, a move that was considered only defensive against Iraq’s sudden, unexpected aggression. Then, only a week after the Congressional election, lo and behold, the purpose was to “liberate” Kuwait and restore its sovereignty, for which an offensive force of another 300,000 was required. Since January 16, however, another purpose has been added: to eliminate Saddam Hussein and so to devastate Iraq that it could no longer threaten the balance of power in the Persian Gulf. A war, it is said, has its own dynamnics; new purposes, not heard of before, tend to emerge in the process.

At this point, after weeks of bombing, it became only “natural” for the public to ask, “then, what?” The administration’s answer sounded even more natural and harmless, a regional arrangement to secure “peace and stability.” But peace and stability for whom and from whose point of view? For the poor Arab masses? For the Palestinians? For third world nations? Not likely. But certainly for the United States, the European Community, and the ruling classes of the region, a chilly echo of the 1920s when Great Britain and France divided up and conquered the region under the League of Nations “mandate.” Strategically and economically, and therefore politically, the Gulf would be the right place at the right time for the sole superpower in the post-Cold-War era to be and to station its troops which it no longer has any rationale to keep in Western Europe.

After all, at stake here is the control of 70% of the world’s known oil reserves. “Our way of life” is indeed hanging in the balance. Who knows what new threats to our national interest will emerge in the region in this “dangerous” world? Another Hussein, angry Islamic fundamentalism, even a conflict of interest with Japan, the United States of Europe, or a resurgent Soviet Union: any one of these would do.

The ultimate imperialist intentions of the administration are slowly but finally coming to the fore in appropriate ideological garb. There is no more need to make the naive protest that we should not fight a war whose rationale is not clear. It has not been clear only to the gullible public; it has been clear enough to the occupants of the White House and the Pentagon and their friends in business and academe.

It is not only the timing of the announcement of the “apparent” and the “real” intention of the administration that has led the public to accept by now a “new order” in the region to be imposed by the United States as something as natural as the sun rising in the morning. The administration must share its propaganda victory with the media that have been so willing to cooperate with it like hungry dogs going after the bones thrown in their way. With all the commentators and experts, military analysts and retired generals, the media have lent color, intensity, passion, and drama to the administration’s version of the war, sending a whole nation on a frenzy of jingoistic nationalism.

The media and the administration have spared no tactics in this propaganda war. For the legitimacy of the war they made vociferous appears to the U.N. resolutions, although the U.S. has never hesitated to ignore them whenever convenient. For the universal justice of their action they did not mind invoking the name of the “multinational” forces, even though these were put together by manipulation. For divine vindication they pictured the war as a “just” war, a cosmic struggle between “good” and “evil,” a Manichean, apocalyptic struggle with a primal demon, Saddam Hussein, even though the U.S. armed and hailed him as an ally only a few short years ago. For the humanity of the war they evoked the frightful specter of chemical and nuclar bombs that must be destroyed for the sake of world peace, as though Iraq were the only country to have them and the only country without the right to produce them. For the harmlessness of the war they were eager to cover up the real magnitude of enemy casualties and the “collateral damage” to enemy civilians, picturing the war as a “clean” and “tidy” operation proceeding on schedule, with surprisingly low and therefore readily acceptable losses of our own troops.

For all its cynicism and nauseating self-righteousness the performance of the media was simply brilliant. In justifying every step taken by the administration as it was taken, preparing the public to accept it as natural and reasonable, and diverting national attention from the real issue of war, the imperialist intention of the lone superpower in the region, the media certainly deserve more medals of honor than do all the generals and navy pilots in the Gulf put together.

The logical fallacies committed by the media in this process are so numerous that future writers of logic textbooks may have to invent new labels to the despair of future logic students, in addition to the exiting ones: red herring, false dilemma, equivocation, undistributed middle terms, ad hominem, good intention, strawman, slippery slope, begging the question, questionable analogy, false generalization, etc., etc.

After this brilliant performance of the media it seems no wonder at all that the gullible public support George Bush with a 91% approval rating. The war has vindicated all the usual “ideals” of American ideology, freedom, sovereignty, law, justice, and humanity, and has done so by also making an unmistakable demonstration of an almighty America to boot, something no nation should ever forget in the future. America is always right, and it is also powerful, with an international responsibility assumed only reluctantly, only as a burden for the sake of world peace.

Thus Christians in America sang “God Bless America,” Sunday after Sunday, loudly and happily, from Vermont to Texas, praying for their own victory, thanking God for not being like the Iraqis, with petitions for the speedy and safe return of their own loved ones, sure that God was on their side, as though Iraqis were not human beings or children of the same God. The spectacle of Christian America was the picture of triumphant tribalism at its most cynical and pathetic.

An equally deep horror remains at the prospect of what is likely to happen in the months and years ahead. What will prevent America, now delirious in its military and technological victory, from being an international bully, terrorizing the rest of the world, especially the third world nations, now that its power seems challenged by no countervailing power as in the days of the cold war? What will prevent America, now that it has tasted the bliss of technological perfection in the art of destruction, from demanding more such weapons at the expense of basic human needs, or from inducing other wars when domestic issues become too pressing and diversion becomes necessary?

These are despairing, sobering thoughts. Those committed to justice and peace in the world have been chastened, compelled to shed their complacency and wishful thinking. In all realistic honesty we have to face up to the real dimensions of the obstacles we have to overcome. It is better to realize once and for all how useless and powerless all the schooling in grade schools and colleges is when it comes to unmasking the massive propaganda of a well organized, long-sustained media campaign. It is only honesty to recognize the impotence of established churches before the temptations of tribalism and imperialism. Innocent as we should try to be, it is also incumbent on us to try to be as wise as serpents. In the meantime let’s not lose our patience and hope. The war may be over, but our struggle is not.

Belmont Abbey College

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Articles CPP Newsletter Online V11.1

An Objection to Conscientious Objection by Maureen C. Kelley

Kelley, Maureen C., “An Objection to Conscientious Objection: Conscience on Trial,” Responses to the War by Philosophy Majors, Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Spring 1991).

Tragically, it has taken the violent overtures of the Gulf War to bring important issues of peace to the public attention. Of particular concern to students was the threat of a renewed draft, and with these worries of conscription came pleas of conscientious objection. As an undergraduate, I found myself questioning not the merit of conscientious objection per se, but rather, the legal system by which conscientious objector status must be obtained.

I was at first concerned with the limiting definition of pacifism inherent in requirements for conscientious objectors. Federal law defines conscientious objectors as those who object to participating in war in any form. The meaning of ‘any form’ remains ambiguous. Does it refer to forms of participation, or to types of warfare? Given that the federal government has created a second category for those who object to war, but who do not object to performing noncombatant duties in the armed forces, it has been commonly accepted that ‘form’ refers to violent combat. Those seeking status as conscientious objectors then, must refuse to serve in any combatant role.

Accepting Duane Cady’s notion of the ‘pacifist continuum,’ this narrowed definition restricts objector status to the most extreme forms of pacifism. Individuals must espouse, at the very least, non-lethal force pacifism. Federal law does not recognize nuclear, or ecological pacifists, and it certainly does not recognize selective objectors, or persons whose consciences permit them to participate only in “just” wars. In fact, all consequentialist forms of pacifism are ruled out on the grounds that such views are deemed ‘inconsistent’ or ‘insincere,’ as compared to the deontic, or ‘principled’ forms of pacifism. In practice, most federal boards cater only to absolute pacifists, welcoming the Mennonites and Quakers, while shunning those who may find the use of force justified in limited cases. As a result, federal law has been allowed to demarcate the parameters of pacifism.

Unfortunately, government authorities have not stopped at the boundaries of pacifism, but have ventured to measure the ‘sincerity’ of pacifist claims as well. A registrant’s opposition to war must be unequivocal in the eyes of the board members, in order to achieve objector status. Several problems arise with such a measurement. First, the forum in which the sincerity of claim is determined is essentially a legal court. And while courts of law are commonly known to be decisive in matters of fact, they are infrequently known to be competent in probing matters of conscience. A vigorous cross-examination can bring out the most stubbornly held facts, but can rarely shed light on a person’s deepest convictions. In such cases, the person seeking conscientious objector status may be severely hampered by verbal limitations and thus subjected to arbitrary criteria. As one court stated, “the best evidence [on a registrant’s sincerity] may well be, not his statements or those of other witnesses, but his credibility and demeanor, in a personal appearance.” A registrant’s claim may thus be rejected if he or she gives evasive answers or appears anxious. Such an examination may reveal that the individual is inarticulate, confused, or nervous; none of which are grounds for proving insincerity.

The objectivity of the judges may also be called into question. Board members have been referred to as, “community influentials,” “extensions of the local control structure,” and “managers of the national government’s function.” In all cases, they are agents of the state, employed to protect the interests of government and subsequently, entrusted with the rights of registrants. A survey conducted during Vietnam, found that the majority of board members were ‘never active’ in politics, and two-thirds surveyed held some form of public office during their lives. Members are not typically known for holding unorthodox beliefs or divergent views, but rather for embracing a traditional system of values and ideas. That traditional set of values may very well be one which condones the act of war in the name of ‘national duty,’ and sheds disfavorable light on anyone who shrugs such a ‘duty.’

As indicated by these procedural and structural shortcomings, the system through which conscientious objector status is obtained merits serious reevaluation. In the most extreme judgment, it seems only to be a governmental artifice, designed for the purpose of thwarting those who seek its refuge. Perhaps then, we should be wary of seeking refuge from violence with those who have been the historical perpetrators of violence. As ultimately, it is not the private conscience which should bear the onus of proof, but the act of war.

Maureen C. Kelly is a senior philosophy major at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

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Articles CPP Newsletter Online V11.1

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.

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CPP News CPP Newsletter Online V11.1

1991 Announcements

Gay, William, “1991 Announcements,” Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Spring 1991).

CPP President. Duane Cady has been elected CPP President for 1991. He succeeds James Sterba, who served in 1990.

Papers for October Conference. The fourth annual conference of CPP will be held in Knoxville October 25-27, 1991. Our host is the Univ. of Tennessee, with Sheldon Cohen in charge of local arrangements. For the first time we have a theme, namely, Nationalism and Militarism in Regional Conflicts. Henry Shue of Cornell University’s Prog. on Ethics and Public Life, and tentatively Michael Klare, Assoc. Prof. of Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College, will be our invited speakers. Papers on aspects of the conf. theme are preferred, but other war and peace issues are not excluded. Papers, limited to 20 minutes reading time, can be submitted in duplicate to Laurence Bove (Walsh College, 2020 Easton St., N.E., N. Canton, OH 44720) by July 1st.

Call for Papers. William Gay is seeking papers for a joint American-Soviet volume on philosophical reflections for the 21st century. The perspective is social political philosophy, with an emphasis upon issues of war and peace. Seven North American essays will be included along with seven Soviet essays. The coeditors are William Gay for Concerned Philosophers for Peace and Tatjana Alekseeva for the Institute of Philosophy in Moscow. Both an English (Rowman & Littlefield) and a Russian (Politizdat) edition will be published by 1993.

Essays may be submitted on any of the following topics: Post-Perestroika Ethical Views of Nuclear War and Deterrence; Political Realism, Morality, and the Future of the Nation-State; Nonviolent Alternatives to War; Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy in the 21st Century; Feminist Views on Conflict and International Relations; Peace and Justice from a North-South Perspective; and Ethics and Environmental Concerns. All American essays will be selected by blind review. The text should not exceed 25 double-spaced pages. Papers are to be sent in duplicate to William Gay (Department of Philosophy, UNC at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC 28223).

Longwood Series. You should have received an announcement of the publication of the papers of CPP’s second annual conference in 1989. The book was issued in October by Longwood Academic in Wakefield, NH under the title of In the Interest of Peace: A Spectrum of Philosophical Views, eds., K. Klein and J. Kunkel. Longwood has recently agreed to publish a series of volumes consisting of selections from future CPP conferences. Kenneth Klein has been named the General Editor for this series. The next volume will be the 1990 Notre Dame papers which are currently being selected and edited by Duane Cady and Richard Werner. This volume is expected to be out in the fall.

Nominations for CPP Officers. If you know someone who might like to serve as a CPP officer during the coming years please submit her or his name to Joseph Kunkel. The office of President is an annual position. The Executive Secretary is a three-year term beginning in 1992. And the two representatives from each of the three APA divisions overlap with two-year terms. Concerned Philosophers for Peace can only be vibrant with your continued support.

CPP Meeting at Central Division of APA. CPP will conduct two sessions in Private Dining Room no. 6 of the Palmer House in Chicago on April 24, 1991. From 7:15 to 8:15, John J. Mearsheimer (University of Chicago) will speak on the topic “Why We Will Miss the Cold War” and from 8:30 to 9:30, a panel composed of Tomis Kapitan (Eastern Carolina University),Robert Holmes (University of Rochester), and R. Paul Churchill (George Washington University) will address the topic “War and Peace Issues in the Middle East.” A CPP business meeting will follow from 9:45 to 10:15.