Iraq and Afghanistan Essay

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Just War

Order ID: Iraq & Afghanistan

Just war theory: Iraq and Afghanistan

Because of the inevitable difficulties of waging war in the Middle East, many Americans have called the wars waged in Afghanistan and Iraq 'unjust wars.' But unjust wars and wars that are hard to win are not the same thing. Those who would take issue with the justice of waging war in Iraq and Afghanistan must first consider the "Principles of Just War Theory" (2009).

The core contentions of Just War Theory are as follows:

"A just war can be started only in defense against violent aggression.

The only just intention is to restore a just peace -- just, that is, to friend and foe alike.

Military force must be the last resort after negotiations and other efforts (e.g., mediation) have been tried and failed.

The decision to engage in such a just war must be made by the highest governmental authority.

The war must be for limited ends, i.e. To repel aggression and redress injustice.

The means of a just war must be limited by proportionality to the offense.

There should be no intentional and direct attack on noncombatants.

War should not be prolonged when there is no reasonable hope of success within these limits" (Pierce 2005).

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According to all of these traditionally cited criteria for establishing what is a just war, criteria cited by liberals and conservatives alike, Just War Theory criteria had been met for war in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

A just war can be started only in defense against violent aggression.

Essay on Iraq and Afghanistan Assignment

The first idea, that a just war can be started only in defense against violent aggression, seems sublimely validated in Afghanistan, by the horrific violence that transpired in the wake of 9/11. Al-Qaeda has proved itself a threat to Americans at home and abroad, indeed to the world, and cannot be allowed to be safely based Afghanistan or neighboring Pakistan. No other nation showed itself to be able to contain Al-Qaeda in terms of the threat it posed to the United States. The United States had a right to defend itself against Al-Qaeda, just as it would have a right to defend itself against a nation that attacked its borders. In fact, World War II began when the United States was attacked by Japan, on a similar 'day that would live in infamy' in the words of President Roosevelt. Should Roosevelt merely wrung his hands and done nothing -- and should the United States, regardless of who was leading it at the time, done the same after the 2001 attacks?

Regarding Iraq, Saddam Hussein had been a notable gadfly in the Middle Eastern region -- invading Kuwait, gassing the Kurdish people, and acting in an aggressive manner towards the international community. While not a harboring nation of Al-Qaeda, Iraq had sheltered various other terrorist groups with an anti-American agenda. Yes, the invasion was a preemptive strike -- but so have been many acts by Israelis against likely Arab invasions, as was the case during the Six-Day War.

Additionally, although had America not been directly attacked in World War II before Pearl Harbor, surely the right thing to do would have been join the conflict earlier "out of love and compassion for those who were already involved" and prevented the Axis powers from gaining as much support as they did, and persecuting their own people and their neighbors (Pierce 2005)? Acting against violent aggression preemptively is sometimes justified and can prevent greater causalities later on. Simply put, the prospect of Saddam Hussein or the Taliban using chemical, biological or, one day, nuclear weapons was certainly conceivable within the foreseeable future and could have killed thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our country or any other Western -- or nearby Middle Eastern nation. "The United States and other nations did nothing to deserve or invite this threat," to its borders and had a responsibility to do everything to prevent it from happening again, "in its own interests and in the interest of world stability and safety" (Sjostrom 2009). While George W. Bush may have not been a particularly good president, few would wish Saddam Hussein back in power, or would argue that he was not an extremely dangerous threat to the United States and had been for some time (Sjostrom 2009).

The only just intention is to restore a just peace -- just, that is, to friend and foe alike.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq strove to create a just system of democracy and peace. Yes, this may seem like an imposition of Western values. But this assumes that the societies shared coherent values opposed to the West -- instead, they existed in a myriad of factions, all with different conceptions of Islam and national identity. There is no one 'Islamic' ideology that Western democracy is eradicating. Kurdish minority ethnicities support the United States strongly, as do those individuals oppressed under the previous regime. Liberals in Afghanistan support the United States and fight against the Taliban. The U.S. has protected many Afghanis that have suffered under fundamentalist rule. This is particularly true of women, who were denied the most basic of human rights, including the right to an education. America's aim is not to create an American colony; America's aim in both Iraq and Afghanistan is to create more pluralistic societies that do not pose a threat to regional neighbors, or to human rights of ethnic minorities. Would leaving Saddam Hussein in power, or the Taliban, created a more just world and a more just region? Those who oppose both attacks must ask what would have happened had the United States done nothing.

Military force must be the last resort after negotiations and other efforts (e.g., mediation) have been tried and failed.

Repeatedly, in Iraq negotiations had been tried and failed for over twelve years to create a systematic weapons inspection program, not just by the United States but also by the United Nations (Pierce 2005). Yes, no weapons of mass destruction were discovered, but the Iraqi government at the time did precious little to prove that fact. No evidence existed to indicate that Saddam could have been contained and deterred, "in the same way that the Soviet Union was in large measure contained and deterred during the Cold War" given his belligerent actions as a rogue international actor (Sjostrom 2009).

Saddam Hussein had invaded Iran and Kuwait, and "recklessly passed up an easy way out of his problem. Given the high degree of reluctance in the Security Council for actual war, he could have forestalled war indefinitely by cooperating with inspections and releasing a modestly accurate count of his weapons of mass destruction. Supplies, after all, can be replaced. But he stayed reckless, stubborn. You can deter someone who is rational enough to connect his behavior with its consequences. You cannot deter someone who is not" (Sjostrom 2009).

In the case of Al-Qaeda terrorists, which were being harbored by the Afghanistan government, the idea of consequences also have little merit, given that the idea of 'mutually assured destruction,' the primary philosophy of that kept peace during the Cold War, means little to individuals willing to lose their lives in the name of religion.

The decision to engage in such a just war must be made by the highest governmental authority.

While some have charged that George Bush was not the highest governmental authority, and the United Nations was higher and thus the U.N. should have been the one who organized the operation, in the words of one analyst "George Bush is not under U.N. dictates in any way that requires U.N. support for a U.S. military operation. it's worth mentioning that he did submit himself to their efforts in this matter, and he turned against their decision…it's clear that the U.N. is corrupt (uncontroversial -- putting Iraq in charge of human rights; more controversially -- the insistence on continuing negotiations that aren't working; even more controversially -- the tolerance of France in their pig-headed siding with terrorists who give them money over law-abiding countries like Turkey who request help)" (Pierce 2005). The UN is not a neutral body, as famously evidenced in its declaration during the 1970s that Zionism was equated with racism, and has famously dragged its feet enforcing human rights concerns until it was nearly too late, as has been the case in recent years in the Balkans and in Africa. Why do those who so vehemently agitate for human rights in Africa oppose the advocacy of human rights in the Middle East? If the U.S. had not stepped in, who would have done so the war must be for limited ends, i.e. To repel aggression and redress injustice.

Few would seriously contend that the United States means to establish a permanent presence in the region -- autonomy has always been the goal, even of the most hawkish supporters of the war. And even the famed surge in Iraq was used not to entrench the U.S.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Iraq and Afghanistan" Essay in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Iraq and Afghanistan.  (2009, April 12).  Retrieved February 26, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Iraq and Afghanistan."  12 April 2009.  Web.  26 February 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Iraq and Afghanistan."  April 12, 2009.  Accessed February 26, 2021.