“Peaceful efforts to disarm the Iraqi regime have failed again and again-because we are not dealing with peaceful men,” stated the President of the United States of America, George W. Bush, as he declared war to Iraq. The Iraq War was labeled as a preventive war, aimed at removing the threat before it could arise and by the criterion of the just war theory this type of war is often considered morally dubious. Through close scrutiny of Bush’s arguments, we find that the invasion of Iraq was unjustified because insufficient reasoning was advanced for the proposition that the war was just. The just war theory sets a series of very specific conditions to be cleared by proponents of war, and in this case they failed. Therefore, on the grounds of insufficient reason, the Iraq War is unjust. In order to properly make this claim it is necessary to analyze President George W. Bush’s argument, focusing on the components of the jus ad bellum criteria from the just war theory. The arguments stated by President Bush on March 17, 2003 as valid for declaring war did not fulfill all the criteria necessary, such as: just cause and right intention, to place the second Iraq war as permissible; rather it can be claimed unnecessary.
Just war theory has set the guideline for evaluating war in a moral spectrum (Miller, 1). The just war tradition presents a series of justifications that must be valid in order to reach a prudentially defensible decision about whether to go to war or not. Just war theory states that a nation may engage in warfare only for the purpose of self defense and only when all other means to solve the conflict have been exhausted (Coates, 98). First, in order for the Iraq War to be permissible, it should have had valid arguments for the Jus ad Bellum criteria. The Jus ad Bellum criteria’s intention is to question the permissibility of war, meaning when and under what circumstances may a state may engage in war and when, if ever, is it morally justified (Miller, 1). Under the Jus ad Bellum criteria there are several decisive factors that must be met in order to be justified. President Bush fails to meet all of these criteria and engaged in a war that was not morally permissible.
Obviously the most crucial matter is determining the reasons why to engage in war, to abide by the regulations of the just cause criterion, which clearly states that force may only be used when there has been an aggression against a state’s sovereignty or human rights (Miller, 2). George W. Bush has said that the Iraq War can be justified by this criterion, because force can be used in self-defense or to pre-empt an imminent attack. The rationale behind of Bush’s argument was that Saddam Hussein had possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and had a supposed relation to the terrorist group Al-Qaeda. As he made clear with his declarations “The danger is clear: using chemical, biological or, one day, nuclear weapons, obtained with the help of Iraq, the terrorist could fulfill their stated ambitions and kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our country.” If these accusations were true, then it would be valid as far as just cause, because indeed they would be engaging in preemptive war insofar as there is an imminent threat. This is the basis for the Bush Doctrine dictates “in a war where there are weapons of mass destruction, the threat is always imminent”, which is the basis for the previously mentioned argument. The idea that because the stakes are too high there was a moral obligation to act first and not wait for a strike was also one of the ideas used to justify the need for war. However, over the course of six years, American troops continue to sacrifice their lives and not one weapons of mass destruction has been unearthed and few ties to Al-Qaeda have been discovered. In light of these facts, it is easy to understand why the majority of the American population considers the War in Iraq a disastrous blunder and a failure to in fact comply with the regulations of just cause. Moreover, if an argument can be that we have to strike first against anything that might appear as a threat, then we would be constantly attacking other countries because they disagree with the United States’ policies. No war is totally predicable. Therefore, President Bush failed to give a valid reason to fulfill the just cause condition.
In another light, it might be arguable that there was right intention behind the war in Iraq. President Bush feverishly argued in his speech that the intention to disarm Iraq was solely to protect people from the war on terror and a tyrant leader. “We will tear down the apparatus of terror and we will help you to build a new Iraq that is prosperous and freeaˆ¦.the tyrant will soon be gone,” if this is indeed the heroic intention behind the war, then it adheres to Jus ad Bellum criterion. However, there have and continue to exist terrible regimes in the world, such as Sudan and North Korea just to mention a few. I still have not seen President Bush call a press conference and declare a war against them in order to fulfill his moral duty to liberate people from oppression. I doubt that his concerns regarding human rights were ever at the top of his political agenda. From what we have witness of the Iraq War, we can conclude that it was not approached as a war to bring about social justice, the number of civilian deaths is outstanding and no one could ever think of this war as a humanitarian act. What I am saying is that right intention is not met either because the goal of war should be to attain peace and there should be no private motivations, and even as if we can all agree that disarmament is ideal and desirable, I do find the real motives questionable. I cannot discard the possibility that protecting the innocent might just be a byproduct of real intent such as, but not limited to, retaliating past injustices or damages of Saddam Hussein’s regime on the United States, a form of revenge for the resentment on a speculation of the relation between Hussein and the terrorist attacks from 9/11, or to force Iraq into a regime change because of the dislike of their leader (Prados, 127). By intentions such as vengeance as a goal of war the permissibility of war would have been denied. Let us remind ourselves that it is necessary not only to fight against an unjust cause but for a just one.
As far as legitimate authority goes, this is a very fragile condition to break. President Bush could be deemed as a legitimate authority insofar as he is acting on behalf of a common good, but whose common good is he acting on behalf of? As he mentioned: “The United States of America has sovereign authority to use force in assuring its own national security. That duty falls to me, as Commander-in-Chief”, he clearly was acting for the good of his country, but he does not mention anything regarding the good of the rest of the world, particularly the Iraqi people. Indeed it is hard to determine this when the intentions for the war are unclear. Besides, Iraq had not attacked the United States directly, let us not forget that there is no proof of any link between the terrorist attacks and Saddam Hussein, therefore not placing a direct threat on their sovereignty. Therefore, the United Nations was the legitimate authority as they were engaging in a diplomatic intervention before the invasion on behalf of the common good of all nations. It is necessary to clarify that the UN Security Council is a collection of authorities who act as a whole and no member should act on its own.
This is directly linked to the other condition of the Jus ad Bellum criteria: last resort. This deals with the idea that all other resorts had been exhausted and all other attempts had been ineffective. The argument here for George W. Bush was that after “twelve years of democracy, more than a dozen resolutions in the United Nations Security Council,” and all other failed attempts of what he calls ‘good faith’ had been exhausted, and, therefore, he had to act. Even though it is undeniable that Iraq had clearly violated various resolutions presented by the United Nation’s Security Council, there was still reasonable hope for a democratic solution. People failed to challenge faulty information and justifications given by Bush and his administration because they were so immersed into Groupthink (Prados, 17). Meaning that a group made a faulty decision because group pressure led to a deterioration of their efficiency to make good decisions and tend to ignore alternatives. War should not be resorted to just because it is faster than diplomacy. As a result, it can be said that there is always another option and the Iraq war was certainly not the last resort.
Proportionality was another big argument for President Bush; in fact this can be the basis of the Bush doctrine. He stated that the risk of inaction would most definitely outweigh the risk of action, meaning that if they did not act they could be facing a nuclear attack: “We choose to meet that threat now, where it arises, before it can appear suddenly in our skies and cities.” Nonetheless, this can be disproven as well insofar as no weapons of mass destruction were found and so if the United States would not of acted they would not have been more threatened by them than they have always been to countries that dislike them.
In terms of just war theory and specifically the Jus ad Bellum criterion it can be concluded that these concepts can be twisted in directions that are not legitimate to try to make a war permissible. This was clearly the case with the Iraq War. Using the novelty idea of a “pre-emptive” war, in which they were entitled to attack another country just by believing that they had the potential to become a threat, President Bush was able to get away with it. I do not believe that any nation or leader has the noble intentions to really try to prevent something just for the sake of a universal good as it was presented on Bush’s speech. There always has to be a hidden intention or benefit, and I am sure this was war was not the exception, even though we can only speculate about what the real motivations were, we can be sure that the arguments presented on the President’s speech were not sufficient to abide to the conditions of the just war theory, specifically the Jus ad Bellum criterion. Furthermore, the primary reason for engaging in warfare is to restore peace and the Iraq War has failed miserably to deliver peace and security to the Iraqi people or to anyone for that matter, making this the ‘unnecessary war’.