Was The War On Terror A Just One Politics
On September 11th, 2001, "A great people have been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve." (Bush, 2001) The President of the United States at the time, George W. Bush was quoted saying that the terrorists have committed an act of violence, and destruction to shake our values, but we will not let them. Fast-forward 9 years, our country is involved in two wars, and our society has a prejudice against anybody who is Muslim, just because of their religious beliefs. So the question is, did we act justly against the terror attacks, and did we truly let the terrorists "win" by turning the U.S into a police state who now is the leading nation in the War against Terror. Jean Bethke Elshtain wrote a book in 2003, called "Just War Against Terror" where she wrote about the response the U.S had against the new coined term "Extremist Islamists" and if our actions politically, and militarily were just and responsible. She argued it is necessary and most importantly ethical for the U.S to become involved militarily in some conflict where there is genocide, acts of violence, or any other atrocity committed by the State.
Jean Bethke Elshtain advocates that the Just War theory is something that the U.S has to take in accord with Foreign Policy because it is our duty as a society to protect our nation from acts of terrorism and terrorism in general that has been on the rise throughout the past 20 years around the world. Elshtain has supported the previous Bush Administration in the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan and explains that it is our duty to protect these people from the radical extremists who take these people's religion and distort it in effort to cause destruction to anybody who doesn't follow their set of rules and guidelines. Even though the Just War theory has been developed in order to provide some form of guidelines that have to be followed by states in times of war, it is also a Christian fundamental idea that outlines the basic forms of Christianity, to protect those in suffering, and provide to those in need. Elshtain draws connections between Christianity and the Just War theory and how the U.S needs to apply both in foreign policy.
The book starts at talking about the events of September 11th, and what it did to the U.S as a whole. The destruction and violence on U.S soil that was in comparison to 9/11 was Pearl Harbor, and as a nation we banded together and mobilized our armed forces to fight those who threaten democracy and freedom across the world. Today, we have a similar kind of threat, except with a different kind of enemy. She wrote about the importance of knowing the difference between revenge and justice in Chapter 1. In Bush's address to the U.N, "the terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself. (Elshtain, 32) This is important to understand because at that time, citizens of the U.S were all in a sense of deep hatred towards Islam, and anyone who was Muslim due to the fact that, well it was their people that committed these crimes. However, the declared War on Terror was not against Islam, but terrorists who took Islam and used it as an excuse to attack the U.S. Our national security at this point was completely insecure and needed some sort of re-evaluation if we let these attacks of this scale happen without us knowing about it. Although there are reports that the Bush Administration did have the information, it was never looked into. Elshtain brought up a good point by tying the difference between Revenge and Justice by comparing them to a jury and lynch mob. "The distinction between revenge and justice is as clear as the distinctions between the actions of a lynch mob and a conviction by a jury in a first degree murder case. If a trial for murder is not fair, it may result in revenge by default, not intent. (Elshtain, 32) The administration, I believe, took the events of 9/11 and applied revenge tactics instead. If our country was attacked by a group of criminals, who were Saudi Arabian, then why did we invade Afghanistan as a whole, and two years later we invaded Iraq. In terms of the Just War tradition, there can be many arguments made whether the U.S responded justly or not. But what is the Just War theory? As summarized by Aquinas, there were three goods that needed to be present for a Just War, Authority, Justice, and Order. The reason authority is the first requirement for a just war is because the person, who has the right to declare and authorize war, is the one that the idea of Just War is directed to. Aquinas declared that the leader has the power to declare a war if it is deemed necessary. The person of authority ultimately has the responsibility for deciding whether there is a just cause and for using force in a way that accords with the right intention. In 2001, the President officially declared War on Terror weeks following after 9/11. In October of 2001 we already launched an invasion into Afghanistan, were the Taliban conducted operations and trained terrorists. So it made sense to invade Afghanistan, since the groups responsible were hiding there. The administration had the intelligence of Al-Qeada operating in the region, and our evaluation of the situation in Afghanistan was proved to be correct.
In October of 2001, President Bush used his executive power to mobilize the U.S forces without the approval of declaration by Congress. Elshtain is known to support the Afghanistan invasion, but if she's going to apply how the Just War theory applies here, it doesn't. Even though the President is the Commander in Chief, the Congress has to approve the declaration of war before it starts, but Bush launched the operation without seeking approval. The United Nations and NATO supported the U.S Coalition Forces after 9/11
The administration's swift movement into Afghanistan was an unjust action in relation to the Just War theory. Authorization from the highest within the state is needed. Elshtain stated that the use of military force was needed as a response. Al Qaeda deliberately planned the attacks on civilian targets in the United States, according to Elshtain, not because of what American leaders have done, but because of 'who we are'. It's our core principles that we now have to defend and fight for. Al Qaeda and other groups of extremism oppose the United States because of what we stand for, freedom, equality, and human rights. Ironically, an Islamic state should be morally, ethically, legally, and lawfully just. That's what the Dar-al Islam is, and according to Al-Qaeda, we are the Dar Al Harb that is unjust and lawless that they have to fight against, hence us being the "infidel." Elshtain argued since they promise to attack in the same way again, the US government's only moral choice is the use of force, for the sake of 'protecting the innocent'. But, Elshtain argues, such force must be guided and restrained by Christian principles of just war, especially the protection of non-combatants. Elshtain explains how, according to the traditional Christian Just War theory, the natural response to terror is war. Elshtain also argues that according to the traditional Christian criteria, war is a just response to terror in Chapter 3, which is "Making a Case for the Just Use of Force." The presupposition of just war thinking is that war can sometimes be an instrument of justice; that, indeed war can help to put right a massive injustice or restore a right order where there is a disorder (Elshtain 57). The Taliban group has caused major disorder in Afghanistan. They have been causing havoc and social unrest in Afghanistan ever since their take-over in the early 90s. Women's' rights do not exist, and if you are not living in accordance to their Islamic Law, then you are an infidel. Ever since the invasion of the U.S, there have been 14,000 to 34,000 civilian deaths caused by military force. These numbers are from the U.S department of Homeland Security. In effect, the U.S' responses to the terror attacks have resulted in approximately 30,000 civilian deaths in comparison to 3,000 deaths of 9/11. As Elshtain said previously, it is important to understand justice and revenge.
In the contemporary though of the Just War idea, the list of requirements for Just War starts out with Just Cause being the first. In some cases, such as the Catholic Bishops, the resort to force is problematic to begin with, saying that there is a "dirty hands" aspect to even justify resort to use force. The moralists on the other hand, then get to determine whether or not to justify the war by looking at whether all the criteria is present and is resolved in the proper way and then as a result of that, the question of authority to use force becomes formed. This is also the result of the Just War idea coming into the framework of the modern International Law idea. The cause for war must be just. In contemporary interpretations of the Just War theory, two legitimate reasons for war need to be recognized. Self-defense, and justice. The use of military force to the massive attack on the United States could've been justified in terms of self-defense because the attack was on U.S soil. The case for this claim would be that a global network of terrorism was responsible, and could attack again if they are not stopped. With this argument at hand, military intervention in Afghanistan had a legitimate source.
In the book, the Chapter "The Pulpit Responds to Terror," on page 122, Elshtain talks about the U.S Bishops and a statement they had made on the 26th of September, two weeks after the terror attacks, "calling for the United States to 'wage reconciliation."(Elshtain, 131) This meant that the U.S bishops wanted the U.S to reconcile with those criminals and masterminds of the attacks, and how we should not wage war with those who have taken matters into there own hands, and carried out their plans not according to the political leaders or governments in those nations in relation to the terror group Al-Qaeda. The Pope, John Paul II stated "the attacks were an act of unquestionable horror and completely going against the word of God. Two points made by religious establishments; however each one takes a different stand. John Paul II understood at the time that military force was going to be used in response, but it needed to be used justly and morally. Elshtain here argues how it is nations are supposed to make the final decision of who should fight this conflict with military force, rather than the United Nations. I disagree with the author here. She explains how it is America's responsibility to protect and serve the world against this evil because we are the world's only super power, therefore we have the means to promise "freedom, equality, and democracy" for all. Ethically the United States has to uphold these traditions because we have set them. We have made it our duty to protect human rights around the world, so this is our fight. Well, I believe because of our interventions in all of these Human Right conflicts, we got into this mess.
The Just war theory also explains how any state has to respect the rules and laws of international accords such as the Geneva Conventions. These certain rules were made so that there would be a distinction between enemy combatants and non-enemy combatants, how to treat civilians, and how to treat prisoners of war. The U.S failed in this, we did not uphold the Geneva Convention articles, and our treatment of enemy combatants has been widely criticized. The definition of war has great value when it comes to politics, economic, and military force. The U.S has mobilized its armed forces quickly because there was a threat of war upon the U.S by global terrorist organizations. With it comes great responsibility that needs to be upheld, just as in the theory of Just War. There is a difference between enemy combatants, civilians, and scorched-earth tactics. These cannot be ignored if we truly want to have a just war in Afghanistan.
Sadly however, there have been many civilian deaths because of the difficulty to identify who is an enemy combatant in the region and who is a civilian. We have taken combatants into custody, but we do not know who these people truly are. Whether they are terrorists or not, we used un-orthodox ways of torture in order to gain information or recourses that would help us in the defeat of Al-Qeada. There have been many advances, technologically, in the weapons that are used including smart bombs, bunker busters, and long range laser-guided cruise missiles. Even with these advances, in Afghanistan there are still reports about innocent civilians being targeted and killed, and the inability to determine who is a Taliban soldier, and who's just a civilian. The U.S has to take responsibility and work out solutions to stop the death of innocent people and the detainment of innocent people who were thought to be enemy soldiers. Even with previous conflicts such as Desert Storm, there is a question whether or not the U.S has upheld the Geneva Conventions. Therefore it is hard to truly determine whether we did act justly to terror.
Elshtain believes that the U.S has a sense of duty to upholding this tradition in fighting terrorism. Although I see the need for military conflict in Afghanistan, it should be used more for re-building the damaged infrastructure and trying to re-establish society in order for the civilians to be able to defend themselves from the Taliban, war-tribes, or Al-Qaeda. If the U.S continuous it's search and destroy missions, "smart bomb" technology that kills innocent civilians due to "error" or the overall presence of authority within the country, there is no just activity there. We cannot deem ourselves as a police force that is responsible for the welfare of people in need. Elshtain believes it's a Christian duty also, following the argument that the U.S was built on Christian fundamentals.
Overall, I agree with Elshtain about the importance of defense and how the U.S re-acted to 9/11 was necessary, although I disagree with how the war was conducted. Elshtain writes how if human dignity needs a "new guarantee, who will be the guarantor? There is no state except the United States with the power and the will to play this role (Elshtain 179). This has to be a global effort, not solely the U.S. We declared a War on Terror, but there is Terror throughout the world. Terror attacks happened in Spain, England, Russia, India, and Pakistan, however the U.S is on the frontlines fighting this war. Without a global community working together, this War on Terror will never be victorious for us, and our allies. The Just War theory has a strict set of guidelines, and Elshtain claims we follow it the way it's meant to be. But, when we look at the context of Iraq, which Elshtain doesn't talk about due to the fact that the Iraqi surge was two years after the book was written, the bush Administration provided the International Community, U.N, and Nato with faulty intelligence, no self-defense argument other than that Iraq has means of nuclear arms development and WILL use them against the U.S. So in the end, the "Just War Response to Terror" has now been on-going for 9 years, along with 4,000 U.S casualties, and countless civilian deaths. At first, our mission was to get rid of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and defeat Al-Qeada once and for all. However, somewhere down the road the United States did not accomplish what it hoped for. The Taliban are again on the rise, Al-Qaeda has been stopped in several planned attacks, which proves that they are still as powerful as before, and society within the United States has no true definition of Jihad, what it means, what it is, and how most Muslims represent a threat to national security. So in the end, did we truly get what we wanted out of Operation Enduring Freedom?
Article name: Was The War On Terror A Just One Politics essay, research paper, dissertation