Does the United States fight "Just Wars"?
The idea that war requires justification is not new. Many cultures throughout history have held the idea that war should not be undertaken lightly, but only under certain circumstances. To act outside of these justifications is to embark on an unmoral endeavor and should be condemned as such. Even in very martial based societies, war is not undertaken without any basis or reason.
In philosophy, this tradition of understanding a moral war is known as “just war theory”. This tradition was first formulated by Saint Augustine of Hippo and was more fully enumerated by Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas held that war itself is a terrible thing and should only be fought under certain criteria. In his Summa Theologica, he lays out his three criteria that are necessary for a war to be considered just.
“In order for a war to be just, three things are necessary. First, the authority of the sovereign by whose command the war is to be waged. For it is not the business of a private individual to declare war, because he can seek for redress of his rights from the tribunal of his superior. Moreover it is not the business of a private individual to summon together the people, which has to be done in wartime.”
Essentially, Aquinas is stating that only a country has the legitimate authority to declare and fight wars. This is fairly basic, but it is in the second and third criteria where Aquinas lays out more strict criteria:
“Secondly, a just cause is required, namely that those who are attacked, should be attacked because they deserve it on account of some fault…A just war is wont to be described as one that avenges wrongs, when a nation or state has to be punished, for refusing to make amends for the wrongs inflicted by its subjects, or to restore what it has seized unjustly."
Aquinas states that a country can only go to war justly if there is an injustice done that requires remedy. This makes intuitive sense, as if there is no wrong that has been done to a country, then the purpose of its going to war must be to reap gain for itself. Furthermore, this injustice just be clear and observable. If not, then there would be no way to ensure that the injustice being done is legitimate and not simply fabricated for convenience
The previous two criteria have been straightforward and clear. The third is much broader, however:
“Thirdly, it is necessary that the belligerents should have a rightful intention, so that they intend the advancement of good, or the avoidance of evil…For it may happen that the war is declared by the legitimate authority, and for a just cause, and yet be rendered unlawful through a wicked intention.”
At first, it may seem as though criteria two and three are one and the same. After all, if one has a just cause, do they not also have righteous intentions? In truth, Aquinas is reaching something deeper. Having righteous intentions has to do with one’s conduct during the war.
Aquinas here quotes Augustine, in which Augustine said: "The passion for inflicting harm, the cruel thirst for vengeance, an unpacific and relentless spirit, the fever of revolt, the lust of power, and such like things, all these are rightly condemned in war."
Having righteous intentions means that you intentionally and consciously seek to do as little unnecessary harm as possible. Civilians are to be harmed as little as possible, chemical and biological weapons are not to be used, and prisoners of war are treated with dignity. Among other requirements, these are necessary to show that one’s intentions in war are righteous.
It is one thing to engage in armchair theorizing about a moral and just war. It is quite another to apply these standards to see if we fight just wars today. This leads us to the question: Does America fight just wars? To answer this question, we will take Aquinas’ criteria for a just war and judge each of the United States’ modern wars by these standards to determine if these wars are truly just.
America has fought many wars over its history, so we will not examine each and every one. Rather, we will examine the more “modern” wars and only examine The Spanish-American War, and the conflict succeeding it to the present day.
The Spanish-American War
Why was the Spanish-American War fought? Many would answer is was fought over the destruction of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor. If this is true, we would have a just cause for the war, as Spain would have fired the first shots and attack the United States.
However, the sinking of the Maine is still a mystery to us today. A definitive cause has never been found, even though it was immediately blamed on the Spanish. It should be noted that the Spanish would have little incentive to attack the United States, as its empire was very weak at this point, and they had few troops and ships in Cuba and the Philippines with which to fight. What incentive would Spain have to attack the Maine?
This is enough for us to doubt that the US truly had a just cause in entering the war. If the United States was truly attempting to keep war as a last resort, they would have at least conducted an investigation into the USS Maine incident. Instead, war against Spain was the first reaction.
Furthermore, the righteous intentions of the war are murky at best. The stated purpose of the United States foray into the Spanish islands in the Pacific was to free them from the years of oppressive Spanish rule. However, as soon as they were freed from the Spanish, they were placed under United States occupation. Seeing this as no better a situation than Spanish occupation, they rebelled against the US forces.
This insurrection was put down brutally by the United States forces, all in the name of Filipino self-determination. Hundreds of thousands of Filipino civilians were dead at the end of the war, and the Philippines became a territory of the United States. Needless to say, righteous intentions appear to be lacking in the conduct of the United States’ Armed Forces.
Was the Spanish-American War a just war? Because there was no proven harm done to the United States, there is no just cause for the war. When we consider the brutality done to the Filipino citizens by US forces, we can confidently state that the US did not have righteous intentions in the war either. Thus, the Spanish-American war was not a just war.
World War I
The reasons for the United States’ entry into World War I are complicated to say the least. Wilson and many in his cabinet, excluding William Jennings Bryan, were strong Anglophiles and wanted to fight with Great Britain in the war. However, the American people were not at all convinced that this new European War was any of their business.
The process of convincing the American people to go to war was a long one. The Lusitania was sunk in 1915, with American citizens on board. Germany, prodded by the complete blockade of its ports, started a policy of unrestricted submarine warfare. However, the final straw was in many ways the famous Zimmerman telegram. With Germany seemingly having the upper hand now that Russia was defeated, the American people were much more convinced in the idea of joining in the war.
(See Ralph Raico for a more detailed exposition on the Great War and America’s entry into it)
To return to Aquinas’ list, do we have the necessary requires to label this as a just war? We appear to be missing both a just cause and just intentions for the war. No harm was done to the United States by Germany, Austria-Hungary, or the Ottoman Empire that would give it a reason to go to war. The Zimmerman telegraph was a hypothetical offer from Germany and never a serious attempt at an alliance.
Did the United States have righteous intentions during the war? Because the US was complicit in the total blockade of Germany by the British Navy, we can confidently say they did not. This total blockade of Germany started at the beginning of the war and led to the deaths of over a million German citizens. No food or supplies were allowed into the country at all. The British argued that because these supplies would make their way to the front, they were justified in their blockade. A portion of these supplies certainly would have gone towards the troops, but does that morally justify the deaths of over a million civilians?
Was the US involvement in World War I a just war? The US had no just cause to enter the war. Furthermore, it showed that it did not have righteous intentions by its complicity in the starvation of the German population. Thus, the US involvement in World War I is not a just war.
World War II
In United States history classes, more time is spent in World War II than nearly every other era besides the Revolution. It is etched in the collective American conscious as the our great struggle against the embodiments of evil. It has a near mythical essence to it. Nevertheless, can we call it a just war?
The United States’ entry into World War II is the most well-known out of nearly any war in its history. The attack on Pearl Harbor is a landmark event and remember by many every year. However, America’s involvement with the Allied Powers began far before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The United States had been sending material and weapons to both Great Britain and the Soviet Union long before its official entry into the war. It was not until December 8 when it became a true partner, however.
Returning once again to Aquinas, would we say that the United States had both a just cause and righteous intentions? Putting aside any evidence that Roosevelt baited the Japanese into attack Pearl Harbor and had foreknowledge about the attack (See “Day of Deceit” by Robert Stinnett), we will say that because the United States was aggressed against, they had a just cause in declaring war on Japan.
However, war was declared not only against Japan, but also against Germany and Italy as well. Was there a justification for this? We could say that because of the various human rights abuses by these governments, we have a just cause here. However, the United States was also allied with the Soviet Union, which had violated the basic human rights of its citizens to a much higher magnitude than Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy had done. If the United States was so concerned with human rights, why would it send material and weapons to the Soviet Union? We can only conclude that it was not.
Did the United States have righteous intentions? Its treatment of enemy civilians shows that it did it. The US attacked cities from the air both in Germany and Japan. These cities, while containing legitimate military targets, also contained millions of civilians. Dresden was famously bombed and level by the Allies, killed many civilians. Although casualty counts vary, the agreed figure is around 25,000 German civilians were killed. Tokyo was firebombed in May of 1945, killing around 80,000-120,000 Japanese civilians and completely destroying the city.
The most destructive of these attacks against civilians in cities was the use of nuclear weapons against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Both of these attacks killed tens of thousands of civilians and leveled cities. In previous air raids, at least the bombs could be aimed to hit military targets. A nuclear bomb lacks that precision. It levels both military and civilian buildings indiscriminately.
The justification usually given for the use of nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki is that far more U.S. soldiers would have died in the invasion of Japan than were killed by the nuclear bombs. Without the use of force to force Japan’s surrender, the invasion of the country would have been a bloodbath. However, would this truly have been the result of such an invasion? The very fact that Japan surrendered after two cities were destroyed implies that their spirit to keep fighting was not as strong as believed. Almost no one thought that Japan would surrender after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Even if the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed less civilians than soldiers who would have been killed, can we ethically compare the life of an innocent civilian versus a soldier? A soldier, so long as he volunteered to fight, is aware of the dangers of combat and has accepted those risks in order to fight for his country. A civilian has made no such commitment.
Concerning the Second World War, the United States possessed a just cause. However, the infliction of massive civilian casualties demonstrates a lack of righteous intentions. Contrary to general confidence and popular belief, World War II has not a just war.
Korea was the first of America’s two large-scale interventions to stop the spread of Communism around the world. Officially, this was a United Nations operation to try and alleviate the situation for the South Koreans, but it was headed and mostly supported by the United States. The Commander-In-Chief of the UN forces was the famous Douglas McArthur, after all.
The North Korean forces stormed over 38th parallel on June 25th, 1950. They far outmatched the South Korean Army, both in weapons and in fighting strength. South Korean forces started to desert, whittling down their already outmatched military forces. Seoul, the capital of South Korea, fell on June 28th, just three days after the start of the invasion. The situation was dire, to put it mildly.
The day of the invasion, the UN Security Council met to discuss the invasion by North Korea. The result of this meeting was UN Security Council Resolution 82, wherein North Korea was condemned for its actions. Harry Truman began sending in air support to South Korean shortly afterwards, and the Korean War was underway.
Is there a just cause for the United States entering the war in Korea? It entered the war to defend South Korea, which were the victims of unprovoked aggression from North Korea. Truman stated this to be the cause of US intervention, even though later documents have him saying otherwise and that it was to stop the spread of communism.
The United States certainly benefitted from preventing the collapse of South Korea, as its fall would have threatened their new and rebuilding ally in Japan. However, given that the South Koreans were protected by aggression by the United States, even though this was only one of several causes the US had in going to war, we will approve the intervention to have a just cause.
Did the United States have righteous intentions? Much like World War II, its frequent bombings and air attacks on towns left untold numbers of civilians dead. Over the span of 1950-1953, 635,000 tons of bombs were dropped on Korea. Air Force General Curtis LeMay, head of Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, estimated that they had “killed off” roughly 20% of the North Korean population. Dean Rusk, Secretary of State under Kennedy and Johnson, stated that the US had bombed “everything that moved in North Korea. Every brick standing on top of another.”
The purpose of this strategy is simple enough: destroy the North Korean cities and countryside to cripple both their will and means to fight. The fact that the lives of thousands of innocent civilians stood in the way was apparently not enough to change the calculus of this decision in the minds of American generals.
Was the Korean War a just war? The just cause seems flimsy as Truman himself said this was not the true reason for supporting the South Koreans, but given the South Koreans were the victims of aggression, and were assisted by the US, we will give it a pass. Were there righteous intentions in the conduct of the United States? As detailed above, the United States conducted a war on civilians from the air that left thousands dead. These were not soldiers, but civilians. This barbaric posture towards the North Korean people is utterly condemnable and prevents us from granting righteous intentions on behalf of the United States.
United States involvement in Vietnam begins with the famous “Gulf of Tonkin” incident. Allegedly, there were two different confrontations between U.S. and North Vietnamese forces. The second of these attacks never even happened, as revealed through later declassified documents. The first confrontation, which was sold to the public as being an act of aggression, was actually started by the US forces, which fired the first shots.
Regardless of the legitimacy of the events after which it was passed, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution were passed shortly after these incidents were made known to the public. The Resolution sought to provide aid to any South Asian country threaten by the specter of communism. Essentially, this was a thinly veiled proclamation that it would intervene in Vietnam to assist the South Vietnamese fight against their northern counterparts.
Can we find a just cause for the United State’s intervention in Vietnam. The stated cause of the US was the support of the South Vietnamese against the North’s aggression, which would be a just cause. However, the United States had been active in this region far before any aggression from the North Vietnamese, supporting the French during their occupation of the region which ended in 1954. Much like Korea, the justification does not quite pass the smell test and appears to be another Cold War Era conflict to spread the influence of the United States.
However, similar to Korea, even though the United States very likely had ulterior motives for intervening in Vietnam, the South Vietnamese were under attack. The United States stepped in to aid the South Vietnamese. Because of this, we will grant that the United States had a just cause in sending its forces to Vietnam, even if it seems to be a technicality rather than a truly just cause for war.
Did the United States display that it had righteous intentions in conducting the war? Absolutely not. The Vietnam War is famous for the atrocities committed by the United States against civilians populations in the region.
Agent Orange, an herbicide, was used by the United States during the war as a chemical weapon. The intended use was to spray over jungles and areas where enemies may be located in order to deprive them of food sources and areas to hide. Of course, it was also highly toxic. Its widespread use meant that many civilians and soldiers were exposed to it, leading to millions of illnesses. Among these are many types of cancer and birth defects.
The Russel Tribunal, an international tribunal named after Bertrand Russel, investigated in 1967 the actions of the United States while in Vietnam. It found the United States guilty on all charges, including genocide, use of forbidden weapons, maltreatment and killing of prisoners, and forceful and violent movement of prisoners.
The testimony of witnesses in the tribunal was troubling and disturbing. Numerous witnesses testified to US forces sweeping through villages, looking for enemy soldiers and torturing civilians for information. The New York Times reported that:
“One former American interrogator, Peter Martinsen, confirmed with the tribunal that the Army Intelligence School taught interrogation strategies that violated the Geneva Conventions. “Interrogators participated in actual torture,” he said, before commenting on how those methods occasionally resulted in the death of Vietnamese prisoners of war. Later, in 1970, additional interrogators and Vietnamese people confirmed that they had been waterboarded, shocked and burned. A few even shared how they were sexually assaulted through the insertion of snakes and sticks into their bodies. “It’s so horrifying to recall an interrogation where you beat the fellow to get an effect, and then you beat him out of anger, and then you beat him out of pleasure,” Martinsen added.”
In that same report, the Times added:
“Such testimony also revealed that the United States had forcefully relocated civilians to better isolate the enemy. The strategic hamlet program, for example, forced large populations of people into sanctioned districts in order to pacify rural villages and halt the communist infiltration into the countryside. Witnesses testified that American soldiers murdered resisters and burned villages as they relocated Vietnamese civilians. American bombers and artillery would then subject the reportedly empty village to bombs and artillery fire before covering the area with chemical defoliants. Such tactics eradicated countless livelihoods; most survivors had little choice but to abandon hope and move their families into the prepared hamlets.”
There are countless examples of Vietnamese civilians being treated in this way by US forces. The total number of civilian deaths in the Vietnam War ranges wildly, from several hundred thousand to several million. We will never know how many of these were the fault of the Untied States, but we can say for certain that the US bears a portion of the moral burden for these unwarranted casualties.
Was the Vietnam War a just war? Although we have more than enough reason to doubt the sincerity of the United States’ nominal intentions in supporting the South Vietnamese, but because they did fulfill that stated goal, the United States gets a pass. Did the United States display righteous intentions? The answer should be fairly obvious from the accounts above, but to avoid subtlety, the answer is no. Thus, the Vietnam War was not a just war.
Operation Desert Storm
After the military and cultural disaster that was Vietnam, the US population was wary of entering into any more foreign wars. This feeling was dubbed the “Vietnam Syndrome”. Desert Storm was the first large-scale conflict for the US after Vietnam, making it very important for the future attitude of the country towards these foreign interventions.
The impetus behind Desert Storm was Saddam Hussein’s famous invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Saddam took this action because of the large oil fields in Kuwait, and also that a large portion of his war debt from the Iran-Iraq War was held in Kuwait. Toppling the country would certainly hep his finances.
This would not have been possible for Saddam in the first place had he not received large amounts of arms and munitions from the US to help fight the Iran-Iraq War. It was with these forces that Saddam felt emboldened to invade Kuwait in the first place. Without the assistance from the US, it is doubtful that the invasion would have ever taken place.
After the invasion, Iraq drew international condemnation for its actions. Sanctions were placed on the country by the UN, and forces started to be built up in Saudi Arabia for the liberation of Kuwait. Countries all around the world sent military forces to assist in the operation. However, the US was the largest contributor and coordinated much of the action in the war.
The war was a quick one, lasting only 100 hours. The Iraqi forces were completely defeated, with the UN Coalition forces taking only very light casualties.
Was there a just cause for the United State’s involvement in Desert Storm? Kuwait was under attack by Iraq and the United States, along with other countries, intervened to liberate them. Kuwait was an ally of the US, so the US certainly stood to gain from this action. However, according to our guidelines set out by Aquinas, the US had a just cause in supporting Desert Storm.
Did the United States display righteous intentions? No. The reader may be detecting a pattern. During the war, the US engaged in massive bombings campaigns in Iraq, completely destroying civilian infrastructure. The New York Times reported that a United Nations survey of the damage called it “Near-Apocalyptic”. The Times went on to write:
“The report, prepared by a United Nations team that visited the country between March 10 and March 17, says the bombing has relegated Iraq "to a pre-industrial age" and warns that the nation could face "epidemic and famine if massive life-supporting needs are not rapidly met."
The epidemic warned about by the UN did come to pass. The large-scale economic sanctions remained on Iraq long after the war was over. Combined with the destruction of their economy, this led to an absolute humanitarian disaster. The reader may remember the famous Madeline Albright interview on 60 Minutes where she was asked if the 500,000 children killed because of these sanctions was “worth it”. I have written in depth on this topic and you can read it here.
Was the Gulf War a just war? Similar to Vietnam and Korea, the US assisted the victims of an aggressor. This is a just cause. However, the US was complicit in unjustified attacks on innocent Iraqi civilians and their infrastructure. Therefore, the Gulf War was not a just war.
The events of September 11, 2001 are forever engrained into the collective American psyche. It marked the end of the 1990s, an era of relative peace and prosperity for the US, and ushered in the War on Terror. In many different ways, the world was never the same.
Shortly following 9/11, the US identified their man behind the attacks in Osama Bin Laden. He was hiding out in Afghanistan with the other members of Al-Qaeda. Scott Horton details the exchange between the US and the Taliban, the de facto government on a portion of Afghanistan in his book, Fool’s Errand.
The US demanded that the Taliban hand over Bin Laden. The Taliban first demanded to see some evidence that Bin Laden was really at fault. The US refused. The Taliban than asked that he first be turned over to the Organization of Islamic Countries before being turned over to the US. The US again refused.
The Taliban then asked that Bin Laden be sent to Pakistan before being extradited to the US. Pakistan did not agree to this on the flimsy pretext that they would not be able to guarantee the safety of Bin Laden until he was extradited. At this point, the Taliban became desperate to prevent an invasion. They offered to hand Bid Laden over to any country other than the US. The US refused. The invasion was now imminent.
The Afghanistan War is the longest war in US history, turning 19 last year. As of this writing, the war is still not concluded and the US still holds a presence in the region. The best picture to show the true length of the war is the fact that soldiers can serve in Afghanistan that were born after the war began. A multigenerational war.
Did the US have a just cause in invading Afghanistan? First, it should be noted that the Taliban had nothing to do with the September 11 attacks. It was Al-Qaeda who destroyed the Twin Towers, not the Taliban. However, the war has been conducted for nearly two decades principally against the Taliban. Shown from the above exchange, fighting the Taliban was certainly not necessary, as the Taliban were willing to hand Bin Laden over, and their terms for doing so became weaker and weaker. Given these facts, we cannot say that there was a just cause for invading Afghanistan.
Even if there was no just cause, did the US display righteous intentions? Again, the behavior towards the civilian population excludes any possibility of righteous intentions. In Scott Horton’s aforementioned work on the war in Afghanistan, he dedicates an entire section to war crimes committed in Afghanistan.
“In 2009, 33 civilians were killed in two separate massacres in the village of Garloch. The first was an airstrike that targeted the wrong house in a case of mistaken identity. In the second, U.S. forces attempting to raid a home shot a dog and then a concerned neighbor who had come out to investigate the noise or intervene to help, and then another, and another, ultimately killing 17 civilians. After the government backed down from their initial claims that “most” of the dead were “militants,” they offered “condolence payments” of $2,000 to the survivors of the second attack.”
Horton also recounts the story of Robert Bales, saying:
“On March 11, 2012, a steroid-raging, drunken, revenge-obsessed U.S. Army staff sergeant, Robert Bales, infuriated the local population when he murdered 17 innocent Afghan villagers — nine of them children, including a two- and a three-year-old — and desecrated many of the corpses by burning them. As recently as 2015, Bales was still insisting the people of Afghanistan had no right to resist his and the U.S. Army’s righteous domination of their neighborhoods, even if (since he has been sentenced to life in prison) he now says he regrets slaughtering their toddlers.”
In 2010, Wikileaks published a large cache of documents dubbed the “Afghanistan War Diary”. This collection shows the systematic disregard for civilian life from the Coalition forces in Afghanistan. Some of these incidents include:
- In 2008, an American patrol machine-gunned a bus, wounding or killing 15 of its passengers.
- In 2007, a Polish squad sent mortars down on a village, killing a wedding party, including a pregnant woman.
- In 2008 French troops strafed a bus full of children, wounding eight.
I encourage the reader to examine these war logs for themselves.
The Watson Institute at Brown University has found in its “Costs of War” research that over 43,000 civilians have been killed over the course of the war in Afghanistan, while the number of opposition fighters that have been killed are 42,000.
Is the War in Afghanistan a just war? Not at all. There is no just cause for the invasion and no righteous intentions to be found.
Although not the end of United States interventions in foreign countries, our analysis will end with the war in Iraq.
The war in Iraq is famous for the assertation that Saddam Hussein was in possession of WMDs, or Weapons of Mass Destruction. There were many lines used throughout the media to push this narrative, such as the iconic, “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”
As we all now know, Saddam had no WMDs. In fact, UN inspectors had verified that he didn’t have any in the early 90s, as Saddam had liquidated his stockpiles because he was eager to please inspectors to try and persuade the UN to remove sanctions off Iraq. However, under the story of WMDs and freeing the Iraqi people, the US led a coalition that invaded Iraq in 2003.
Was there a just cause for invading Iraq? It depends on the official cause or mixture of causes that one chooses. As for WMDs, there was no hard evidence that Saddam was in possession of any of these weapons, nor had an active program to develop them. Thus, we cannot establish a just cause for the Iraq War.
Even if the United States did not have a just cause, did they show righteous intentions in the Iraq War? To answer this, we turn to the whistleblower organization, Wikileaks. In 2010, they released a disturbing video, which they dubbed “Collateral Murder”, of a incident that occurred in Baghdad in 2007. In this video, two Reuters employees along with several other civilians were killed by an US Apache Helicopter. When a van came by several minutes later to try and pick up the bodies, the helicopter opened fired on the van, killing several more and injuring two children. The helicopter was unprovoked by any of the civilians, but opened fire regardless.
Originally, the US military claimed that all these civilians were anti-Iraq insurgents. As the video shows, they were simply walking on the street and were killed without any reasonable cause.
With the release of the “Collateral Murder” video, Wikileaks also released a large collection of documents pertaining to the Iraq War. They named this collection the “Iraq War Logs”. Much like their Afghanistan counterpart, these documents plainly show that disregard for civilian life was not isolated, but rather, systematic in the US conduct in Iraq.
These documents include incidents such as:
- In 2007, Coalition forces attacked the home of a civilian women, probably on the basis of bad intelligence, killing her in the process. No further information is given.
- In 2007, 5 men, 5 women, and a child were killed when an airstrike aimed a destroying an enemy emplacement also destroyed their home.
- In 2005, as a US convoy was leaving a camp, a soldier on the convoy shot a woman in the leg. The women was simply walking through the street and their appears to be no reason for the shooting.
Many of these incidents are sparse on details, usually just stating that a civilian was shot and killed, giving no reason. We can only conclude that in many of these cases, there was no real reason. Again, I encourage the reader to examine these logs for themselves.
The Watson Institute’s “Cost of War” research has determined that the total civilian costs of the Iraq War was roughly 184,382-207,156. Total US casualties were only 4,592.
Was the Iraq War a Just War? Much like Afghanistan, there is no just cause to initiate the war in the first place. Furthermore, the US did not show righteous intentions in its actions in Iraq. Therefore, the Iraq War was not a just war.
What lessons are there to be drawn from the history of the United States at war? It is not that we should excuse the actions of a country at war for this reason or that. It is not that we should lower the moral standards by which we judge the ethical value of the actions of a country at war. It is not that we should simply ignore any inconvenient questions.
Immoral behavior is fed by ignorance. The vast majority of people do not wish the see the homes, families, and livelihoods of others destroyed, simply because they lived somewhere else. It is not a lack of empathy but a lack of knowledge that allows “war crimes” to continue.
According to the terms set out by Aquinas, does the United States fight just wars? No, it does not. However, most wars throughout history have not been just. This is not a cause for complacency or relief, but rather, an impetus for a better future.
What lessons are there to be drawn from the history of the Untied States at war? It is that we all have the responsibility to stay informed. Injustice thrives in the dark. For it to die, it must be brought to the light.