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Each and every time the United States considers military action, those of us who are members of pacifist peace churches feel conflicted and torn. We protest, we march, we register our complaints, but almost everyone ignores us. Once again, we are the keepers of a frustrating, even demanding standard, brushed aside by the majority of Americans with the onset of hostilities. And in the end, even we wonder again if there really is such a thing as a just war.

Multiple ironies abound. Friends were born out of war, birthed out of uncertainty and upheaval. The English Civil War of the Seventeenth Century carried on for years with no end in sight. An intensely religious people, English, Scottish, Irish, and Welsh alike believed that God was somehow punishing them for their misdeeds. Any number of religions and nations have been formed in the fiery furnace of conflict and violent squabble. Indeed, should one examine every country's history and the history of many faith groups, the causes are very similar. When the world turns upside down, there is no limit to what might follow.

The concept of just war stretches back across the centuries. According to early Christian church leader Saint Augustine, who codified the concept, it requires that every single nonviolent effort of negotiation should be taken and exhausted before the war is declared. Furthermore, it demanded that no weapons should be used under any circumstances. Today, this would include bombs and explosive devices. Under this precise criteria, even World War II would not be considered a Just War.

If we are to start somewhere with our sober analysis, we should probably begin around two thousands years ago.

"You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles.
This passage in the Gospel of Matthew has been controversial since the very day it was uttered. In a era less imbued with compassion and mercy than the current day, these ideas were radical and offensive. They still are. Since the advent of Christendom, religions, countries, alliances, and individuals have struggled to understand just what Jesus meant. A literal interpretation leaves no wiggle room, but many people have taken liberties with what the text says because it does not fit with their schemes and plans.

I happen to be part of a group that has taken this passage word for word. No war under any circumstance is the hard line I take. It's not easy and I doubt it ever will be. I do know that we as a race of primates and sentient beings are probably nowhere near ready to adopt this difficult challenge without consistently failing at it. We've been willing to entertain some of these notions in piecemeal fashion, but full implementation is, in my opinion, still centuries away.

Though many of us may not believe in any religion, much less Christianity, our beliefs about war are shaped by centuries of Christian thought. A little less than a thousand years following Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas built upon the concept of his predecessor. Aquinas' approach was three-part.

First, just war must be waged by a properly instituted authority such as the state. (Proper Authority is first: represents the common good: which is peace for the sake of man's true end—God.)

Second, war must occur for a good and just purpose rather than for self-gain (for example, "in the nation's interest" is not just) or as an exercise of power. (Just Cause: for the sake of restoring some good that has been denied. i.e., lost territory, lost goods, punishment for an evil perpetrated by a government, army, or even citizen population.)

Third, peace must be a central motive even in the midst of violence. (Right Intention: an authority must fight for the just reasons it has expressly claimed for declaring war in the first place. Soldiers must also fight for this intention.)

These are worthwhile goals and aspirations, but difficult to put into practice. Are we seeking to win the peace, or is that very statement an oxymoron? This philosophy insists upon restraint and a higher purpose, but war by its very nature can easily become sadistic and bloodthirsty, especially when revenge and retaliation makes savages of us all. It doesn't really matter who started it, but even as children on the playground we use that justification to back up our actions.  

Now to the current day. Regarding Syria, we are engaged once again in a great discussion as to whether military action is necessary. I am preparing my metaphorical marching shoes for one more go-round. To use a sports analogy, I sometimes feel like I am part of a football team who, outclassed and out-manned, loses a series of close games to other squads with better players and superior talent. I content myself with moral victories, but I concede would be nice to win every now and again.  

Originally posted to cabaretic on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 07:15 AM PDT.

Also republished by Street Prophets and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •   Would Jews in concentration camp during WW2 (4+ / 0-)

    Support the the US attack on Syria  for Assad gassing citizen of Syria,we have been down this road once before with dire consequences, i am not for war ,but  you as citizen of the world someday have too make a  moral stance ,this is the time in your life ,you should stand up for what right  

    •  Memories of WW2 & the Holocaust (11+ / 0-)

      . . . do not give the U.S. some special right to launch wars unilaterally. I really can't abide this notion that the U.S. is so uniquely righteous that it need not abide by international law or respect other countries' sovereignty. Effectively, the U.S. is claiming a universal pretext to wage war at any time & place of its choosing.

      No one is arguing that chemical weapons use, especially when the victims are civilians, is acceptable. But that in & of itself does not make it legal for the U.S. to intervene in Syria. Let's be honest here: chemical weapons use may be a convenient pretext for the interventionists, but the real goal is regime-change & U.S. dominion over the Fertile Crescent. Even if there is a "humanitarian" guise, the real motives have to do with proxy war against Iran & the desire to cut Russia back down to size in world affairs.

      But aside from the question of legality & legitimate pretext, intervention in Syria would be unwise & most likely counterproductive. We Americans always seem to believe that we can improve things or bend adversaries to our will by firing some missiles at or dropping some bombs on other countries. In this context it would surely be just more gasoline on the flames.

      When Obama attacks Syria, it will mark a serious escalation of U.S. involvement in the vicious sectarian war taking place there. But assuredly it will not be the end of involvement. For once it has committed to this policy, there's only one direction things can go: deeper, deeper & deeper, until the U.S. gets the result it wants.

      •  While I understand your point, (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Justanothernyer, Lujane, AgavePup

        I don't really like the "sovereignty" argument here, as I feel like it implies that Assad is anything other than a brutal, oppressive dictator.

        After all, doesn't sovereignty involve a country's right to govern itself?  How much self-government can we claim that Syria has when their dictator is unelected, and took over after his father, also a brutal, unelected dictator, died?

    •  PLEASE... (5+ / 0-)

      Give us some concrete EVIDENCE that proves that it was Assad who gassed his own people.  All you have are words from your leaders.  

      I for one do not support aligning ourselves with Al Quaeda in order to get rid of Assad who has never attacked us.  

      Again, give us some CONCRETE EVIDENCE to support your case for war.  I beg you.

      Congrats. You've been divided and conquered. We're all serfs now.

      by Smoke and Mirrors on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 04:06:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Can't give the evidence. It's classified. n/t (5+ / 0-)

        War is costly. Peace is priceless!

        by frostbite on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 05:01:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Only evidence you need is commonsense (0+ / 0-)

          From my on conclusion and research ,his younger brother Maher Al Assad probably carried out the orders to use Chemical,he head the 4th armored division, nothing get done on the ground  unless ,he say so , Russia is now ready to accept an UN Resolution condemning Syria use of Chemical , he see the  Assad  being push out the door and will not  risk the Olympics in Russia for a lost cause,you should not buy into the conspiracy theory so easy dude

      •  What proof do you need to see? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bluezen, Justanothernyer

        There have already been numerous reports, from numerous intelligence agencies, supporting the idea that it was Assad who carried out the gas attacks.

        What evidence do you need to see?  Video of Assad twirling a handlebar mustache while talking about gassing his citizens?

      •  Sherlock Holmes style (5+ / 0-)

        OK so we know people were gassed

        We also know that the gas used is not a dual use chemical - example would be chlorine.  It is specifically used to for military purposes.

        We know the delivery system is not possessed by the opposition and it is possessed by the regime.

        We know that regime elements in the area were directed to don chemical protective gear.  Having spent far to many days in such gear I can tell you you dont wear it if you dont have to.  And you sure as heck dont wear it even an extra minute in the heat of August in Syria.

        We know the area that was gassed was controlled by the opposition.

        OK, so given all those things we have three options:

        The regime did it

        The opposition did it

        Some outside actor did it

        Working backwards:

        If it was an outside actor they were able to travel into Syria with chemical weapons and a large delivery system - smaller than a semi truck, larger than a stake struck.  Having done so they then moved to one of the most hotly contested areas of the country where control is street by street.  The moved within a few kilometers of the target areas, let the regime know what they were doing, launched the chemicals and then left.

        If it was the opposition they used chemicals they dont have and delivered them with a system they dont have.  Prior to doing that they informed the regime so they could prepare and then gassed their own supporters.

        Finally if it was the regime they used chemicals they are known to posses delivered with a system they are know to use and against people they are fighting.

        I know what Holmes would say.

        It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

        by ksuwildkat on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 10:41:35 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  so let's go to WAR! based on what a fictional (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          frostbite, barkworsethanbite

          character would say.  btw...are you and your kids enlisting?

          try googling Saudi Arabia Chemical Weapons. Holmes would.

          Congrats. You've been divided and conquered. We're all serfs now.

          by Smoke and Mirrors on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 11:21:58 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  nice try but.... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Wee Mama, rubyclaire

            The Saudis dont possess the launch platform or the chemicals.  Assad and the King o Saudi Arabia have a LONG running dispute that verges on obsession.  Twice they have nearly gone to war the most recent after Assad called the Saudis "half men."

            There is no way in hell the Saudis:

            a - get into Syria
            b - get in there with the equipment needed
            c - notify the regime of their plans
            e - get out after

            Sorry but in the real world unlike the movies stuff like that is hard

            It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

            by ksuwildkat on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 12:29:23 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  There are thousands of foreign fighters in Syria (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              with thousands of weapons. And kat, you expect rational contributors here to believe that very little can be smuggled in.

              Tons of munitions have already been transferred to the rebels.

              War is costly. Peace is priceless!

              by frostbite on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 05:30:09 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Really? That is all you got? (0+ / 0-)

                Im going to assume you have never been to a war zone.

                We are not talking about lone dudes going to jihad.  To do this right you need roughly 30 trained people, a minimum of 4 large trucks and detailed knowledge of the local area.  And when you are dealing with chemical weapons, you want to do it right.  

                THe VAST majority of foreign fighters come to the war as individuals with no weapons.  Traveling with weapons is hard, even in the Middle East.  Since the regime retains control of most border crossings, there are limited places anti regime forces can safely enter.  Once you get there you need to find, buy or otherwise acquire weapons.  This is not like being in a regular military unit where you are issued a weapon and then you turn it in.  These are personal weapons and if you lose it, break it or otherwise render it inoperable you either get a new one or your fighting days are over.

                So no, a chemical warfare platoon is not the same as a disgruntled dude who cant find a wife deciding to go fight.

                It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

                by ksuwildkat on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 07:35:04 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Your assumption are wrong about my war (0+ / 0-)

                  experience. I was an infantry scout in the most difficult war ever fought by the US army. Also the borders in Syria are not even close to total control by the Assad government. Half of the country is controlled by rebels. People who advocate for wars are really mostly ignorant extremists who know nothing about the terrorism of wars.

                  War is costly. Peace is priceless!

                  by frostbite on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 06:28:49 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  OK, then you should know better (0+ / 0-)

                    I would not say the opposition has half.  Closer to 1/3rd and control is tenuous at best.

                    The regime controls all of the borders with Iraq and Lebanon and the vast majority of the border with Jordan.  Only the Turkish border is not in control of the regime.

                    Now having said that, the Iraqi borders is controlled as much by Iraq as by Syria.  The Iraqis, at the bidding of Iran, are doing more to control the border than Syria.  On the Lebanese side, Hezbollah does the same.  Jordan is more neutral, not caring who controls things as long as it is controlled.  THey dont want another invasion by refugees.  Turkey is allowing opposition control but they are not about to let ANYONE bring chemicals into Turkey even if they are heading for Syria.  If the Turkish Kurds got ahold of chemicals they would not think twice about using them...on Turks.

                    Bottom line is there is NO WAY an outside force moved into Syria to conduct a chemical attack which leaves either the regime or the opposition.  All this false flag crap and wild conspiracies is nice in the movies but not in reality world.

                    It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

                    by ksuwildkat on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 06:46:54 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

          •  btw (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Wee Mama, AgavePup, amyzex, rubyclaire

            27 years of service and counting
            4+ of the last 10 years deployed
            you will find my fathers name on a large black granite slab in DC
            My son hasnt made up his mind yet but I anticipate he will follow in the "family business"
            Dont even think about lecturing me on the cost of war

            It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

            by ksuwildkat on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 12:32:35 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  so you're right and all those reports are wrong? (0+ / 0-)

              i must only believe the US-based MSM?  and you???  thanks but NO THANKS.

              also, you don't need to show me your cred. i'm not the one who wants to send you and your loved ones to die in a needless war. if it were up to me, since my tax dollars are helping pay for it after all, i'd keep your ass home.

            •  Whatever happens (0+ / 0-)

              I pray your son never deploys to Syria.

              When the United States becomes a low wage country, only bobbleheads shall go forth from American soil.

              by amyzex on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 02:33:03 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  me too (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                he is 16 so its unlikely this will still be going on when he is old enough.

                This is going to be a Navy/Air Force fight so I am not worried as an Army guy.  I think the American people have reacquired their healthy distaste for putting boots on the ground where they dont belong.  

                If you look at our history we tend to need a reminder every 20 years or so.  Desert Storm made people think we could do war on the cheap (in terms of lives) though in retrospect that was more a function of the speed of the operation.  In deaths per day terms it was actually higher than OIF.  

                I think a lot of people here confuse being in the military with being pro-war.  Nothing could be further than the truth.  Soldiers dislike war in a way non-soldiers cannot understand.  

                It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

                by ksuwildkat on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 07:45:56 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  You Google Maher Al Assad (0+ / 0-)

            Have you updated your  Infowars  account

          •  No war cry (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            ksuwildkat does not say we should go to war, just that the Assad regime is assuredly to blame for the gassing of his people.

        •  You'd make a lousy Sherlock Holmes. (0+ / 0-)
    •  Bringing up Jews in concentration camp (6+ / 0-)

      to hijack the diary of a true pacifist. Dangerous people those pacifist.

      War is costly. Peace is priceless!

      by frostbite on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 04:59:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Do you think Jews in WW2 Concentration Camps (0+ / 0-)

      would have approved of Israel's use of chemical weapons, white phosphorus specifically, against civilian populations in Gaza in 2008/2009?  Many innocents, including children, were injured and killed

  •  Few points (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eztempo, HeyMikey, scott5js, Lujane, AgavePup

    I think nobody apart from isolationists would argue that nothing must be done about War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.

    The problem is what to do - for example many Jewish groups claim that the concentration camps should have been bombed, while ignoring the inaccuracy of much of the bombing in WWII - in the earlier part it was lucky if the munitions fell within 5 miles of the target.  Later more accurate low level bombing was possible but only at limited range. Any attack would have left "collateral damage" - even the famous attack on Amiens prison in France killed many prisoners - around 15% and injured more.

    You have unfortunately made the mistake of conflating military attacks with war. I agree that the USA does not have a good record in making "limited, proportionate" armed responses - Afghanistan being the prime example.

    The destruction of military airfield runways only might mean that a) the regimes military capacity would be reduced and b) indicate at least that the West is not totally ignoring the thousands killed by illegal means. Would you object to that sort of military action IF all diplomatic means failed or were sabotaged by the Russians or Chinese?

    The best solution would be for Assad and his generals (or should that be the generals and their puppet?) to face the International Criminal Court. The time has long come for a reformation of the UN Security Council whose permanent members have reversed their proper role. Rather than providing a fast means of settling international disputes and reducing conflict, their self interests have resulted in their vetoes preventing exactly that. The USA is the worst offender in this by the way.


    We will work, we will play, we will laugh, we will live. We will not waste one moment, nor sacrifice one bit of our freedom, because of fear.

    by Lib Dem FoP on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 07:40:02 AM PDT

  •  Who Has Bought In So Far? (7+ / 0-)

    France - check
    Saudi Arabia - check
    UAE - check
    United Kingdom - oops

    So far, it still looks like a case of "let's you and him fight."

    Obama went too far, too soon with his "red line" rhetoric. I wonder what was truly behind that. After all, in 1988 one of our favorite despots (before he wasn't a favorite anymore) committed a genocidal atrocity in Halabja, and the US didn't rush in.

    "A famous person once said, 'You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.' But as I once said, "If you don't teach them to read, you can fool them whenever you like." – Max Headroom

    by midnight lurker on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 09:22:30 AM PDT

    •  I wonder if "regime change" wasn't behind it (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ... I suspect that President Obama has been surprised at the hesitance of even Republicans to respond militarily to the use of poison gas in Syria.  Obama isn't a rash or impulsive guy, and leaning so far forward as to lay down a hard line on poison gas could have been a temporizing response to the early demands from the uber-hawks & neocons that the U.S. get involved in Syria's civil war at the outset:  sounds firm, but puts a distant line on direct American involvement, despite the Administration's early call for regime change.

      The political "safety" on the threat is the assumption that the use of gas is so inherently outrageous that all stripes of "decent Americans" would see the necessity of military response should the Assad regime (or its allies) employ weaponized gas, and by using gas WMDs, Assad would make himself such a pariah that not only most Americans, but most of the world would clamor for his being deposed by internationally-endorsed military action.

      Frankly, I'm kind of surprised the political reaction is as equivocal and ambivalent, internationally and domestically, even if the President isn't.

    •  There's a lot of evidence that it was Saudi Arabia (0+ / 0-)

      that gave these CWs to the Rebels who in turn used it on the innocent.  You know, one of our BFFs in the region who would never, ever do anything to mislead us?  The country that shielded Osama Bin Laden?  We have to trust them and do as they say because they are our BFF.

      Congrats. You've been divided and conquered. We're all serfs now.

      by Smoke and Mirrors on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 04:11:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Care to show your evidence? (6+ / 0-)

        You know, since you're asking for OUR evidence that it was Assad's government?

        •  Why don't you spend 5 minutes of your (0+ / 0-)

          precious time and do a just a bit of research? There's this thing called search engines?  And like, if you type 'Saudi Arabia Chemical Weapons', you get like, results and stuff.  

          I mean, I'm all for just taking the government's words at their face value and stuff, because they would never lie and my head hurts when I start thinking and stuff, but search engines are kinda cool.

          BTW, have you and your loved ones ENLISTED YET???

          Congrats. You've been divided and conquered. We're all serfs now.

          by Smoke and Mirrors on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 11:27:41 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  oh.. if you have an extra minute (0+ / 0-)

            google 'kerry assad' and see what comes up.

            Congrats. You've been divided and conquered. We're all serfs now.

            by Smoke and Mirrors on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 11:31:59 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  1) At DK we usually provide back-up to our claims, (4+ / 0-)

            especially if the claim is outside the norm. We claim it, we show it.

            2) Infowars and are not highly valued sources.
            3) This would seem to be a big deal if were true:

            Syrian rebels in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta have admitted to Associated Press correspondent Dale Gavlak that they were responsible for last week’s chemical weapons incident which western powers have blamed on Bashar Al-Assad’s forces, revealing that the casualties were the result of an accident caused by rebels mishandling chemical weapons provided to them by Saudi Arabia.
            But it's not. If you are using the mintpressnews piece for support, note that the article now has a clarification up top stating that AP Gavlak was not in Syria at the time of their story.  Oops.

            I want no attack on Syria but your sources are...less than solid.  Please don't use alex jones or the blaze next.

            You do not advance the cause of "no stupid macho attacks of Syria" when you use these sources for dubious claims.

            As of 9pm 8/30/13: RETIRED Pie Warrior. Substance over Sh*t Flinging (as best as I am able) ~ JV

            by JVolvo on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 09:24:00 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Have you and YOUR loved ones (0+ / 0-)

            signed up to be exposed to sarin gas?

            Because you're arguing for letting a brutal dictator continue to gas his own people.  If those of us advocating that SOMETHING (not necessarily military action, as I have repeatedly stated) be done have no right to do so unless we're willing to enlist ourselves, then I would argue the opposite should hold true for those who want to do nothing and let innocent people die.

            And you're the one putting forth the conspiracy theory that the rebels are the ones who did the gas attack.  The burden of proof is on you.

    •  Americans have been told too many lies (0+ / 0-)

      in previous wars to believe in yet more war lies. We do not trust our government--just like the vast majority of our world does not trust our government, because we support autocracies and attack democracies.

      War is costly. Peace is priceless!

      by frostbite on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 05:13:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  While I agree to an extent, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I think that should only go so far.

        If the US government had wanted to get involved in stopping the Darfur genocide, for example, would you oppose it simply because the government said that genocide was occurring, so it must be a lie?

    •  You forgot Poland! (0+ / 0-)


      As of 9pm 8/30/13: RETIRED Pie Warrior. Substance over Sh*t Flinging (as best as I am able) ~ JV

      by JVolvo on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 09:08:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  More required for a "just war"... (11+ / 0-)

    ...than responding to gravely evil actions.  The standard requirements are:

    First, the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

    Second, all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

    Third, there must be serious prospects of success; and

    Fourth, the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.

    Even if we assume that Assad (or other high government officials) ordered poison gas attacks on Syrian civilians, it is doubtful or unlikely that all the other criteria can be satisfied here.

    •  If we attack, we will be "the aggressor". (5+ / 0-)

      Syria is a civil conflict - and the US holds no moral highground

      Fiat justitia ruat caelum "Let justice be done though the heavens fall."

      by bobdevo on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 11:36:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I like your standard, Jackson... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Jackson L Haveck

      But, it seems your requirements for a "just war" are not widely shared among our leaders, unfortunately.

    •  It's strange... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I take both a narrower view of Just War than the diarist (for example, I don't think "retaking lost land" is a Just War concept, it just encourages eternal tit-for-tat as both sides think of it as theirs).  Yet I also support intervention in Syria.

      Já þýðir já. Nei þýðir nei. Hvað er svona erfitt við það?

      by Rei on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 12:40:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Can you point to any accepted theory... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        frostbite, Bisbonian, Samulayo, JVolvo

        ...under international law in which a nation is authorized to engage in war simply because another nation had done a "bad thing", regardless of all other considerations (typically included in the concept of "just war")?

        •  Asking to find UN authorization for (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Lujane, Wee Mama, Rei, fladem

          military action on the basis of humanitarian intervention is a catch-22 that ignores geopolitical realities among the 5 permanent members. Kosovo would generally be considered to be just in a sense but it wasn't authorized by the UN because of Russia and China. India intervening in East Pakistan (now known as Bangladesh) is generally considered good but I can't recall ever hearing about it being authorized by the UN, same with Vietnam into Cambodia deposing Pol Pot.

          The big problem is humanitarian intervention hasn't really be codified in international law. There are snippets and customs that do extend back some time, but no real legal precedent exists that everyone can turn to and say "ahh this checks off all the criteria to justify intervention."

          Not to mention Security Council resolutions are not the best way to get this done at times for above mentioned reasons. The US won't ever do it (for fear it gets done to them in response) but the General Assembly could, legally, authorize the use of force against Syria if the Security Council refuses to based on political reasons.

          •  None of the "traditional" just war principles.... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            ... take the UN into account.  To apply them, one need only give a broad reading of the first criterion.  The other three criteria would still be applicable, as is.  Considering these, it is unlikely that any action taken by the US could pass the just war test.

            For the record, the US stridently opposed Vietnam's rescue of the Cambodian people from the murderous Pol Pot regime.  

            •  As much as the Vietnamese intervention is... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              considered good, they had major political reason for doing it. Namely removing what was considered to be a Chinese satellite state.

              But yeah it's tricky. Was mostly just pointing out that looking for UN authorization for any of this is pretty much not going to happen simply because of political considerations.

      •  Would you also advocate intervention (0+ / 0-)

        if a majority of Americans opposed it?

  •  As a fellow peace churcher I appreciate this diary (8+ / 0-)

    I am feeling much more conflicted over this one.  Frankly the "no war" argument on Iraq felt like a slam dunk by comparison. Even though it didn't succeed, I think all the facts were on the anti-war side.

    I am sympathetic to the arguments here though.  Chemical weapons are a different category to me, although I know not everyone agrees.  It is interesting for me to be almost on the other side of some of these conversations.  I do think having the conversations thoughtfully is terribly important whereever we come out as individuals.

    And I'm grateful that I'm not in charge of making any decisions here.

    •  Q: to what extent should we choose for others? (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ybruti, frostbite, Chi, Lujane, Wee Mama, JVolvo

      You want to forego retaliation for harm inflicted on you, or your family, or your society; you want to forego violence to prevent further harm to you and yours--fine. That's your right.

      Do you have the right to choose no retaliation, or no violence to prevent further harm to, innocent others?

      That's a different question.

      I do not suggest there is a clear answer. Just that it's not the same question.

      Take concern for your own welfare--physical or moral--out of the question. What's left is choosing between the welfare of the Syrian populace and the welfare of the Assad regime. If it were clear that using military force against the Assad regime would actually be a net benefit to the Syrian populace, then I would quickly say let's strike Assad.

      But that's not clear; Syria could easily turn out to be another Iraq, another Yugoslavia.

      Andrew Sullivan has a most thoughtful post up, not coming to a conclusion but endorsing Obama's placing the debate before Congress. Sullivan endorsed the Iraq invasion and has since admitted he was wrong.

      "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

      by HeyMikey on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 01:22:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  thanks for bringing this up: no war- ever. (8+ / 0-)

    I spent the past few decades protesting against our nation's policies and this time around have run out of energy and retreated to my corner: I'm a mother against war because it's just too hard to make babies to keep on blowing them up. Just stop, everybody.
       I am relieved to read that there are still churches out there that go by what is written in Matthew. How can it be a church and yet not?
    Glad you posted this. Thanks.

    We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

    by nuclear winter solstice on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 09:57:13 AM PDT

  •  War in Syria may be just, but it won't be legal (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lefty Coaster, bobdevo

    As it stands now, if Iraq was an 'illegal war'  Syria certainly will be.

    Dammit Jim, I'm a lawyer, not a grammarian. So sue me.

    by Pi Li on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 10:41:53 AM PDT

  •  No war under any circumstances? (4+ / 0-)

    No self defense, no standing up for human rights, no upholding international law?

    Those that understand nothing but brute force are going to love us...

    •  Konnichiwa! (0+ / 0-)

      God save the Queen! Long to reign over us, Massa.

      Auf wiedersehen!

    •  Self-defense? Attacking Syria is self-defense how? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      frostbite, Bisbonian

      Upholding international law?  International law says we have no right to attack Syria.

      Compared to the Iraqi civilians we killed in our invasion, Assad is a choirboy.

      Fiat justitia ruat caelum "Let justice be done though the heavens fall."

      by bobdevo on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 11:40:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That is not what the diarist said. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ExpatGirl, Dr Swig Mcjigger

        No war, period, means just that.  No.  War.  Ever.  That is the quick route to extinction.  You have to fight for something, or else you stand for nothing...

        •  I've always been fighting for peace, myself (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          frostbite, Bisbonian

          Sure, it may be like my high school principal said, "What if everyone decided to do what you did?" and I think, "Well, then no one would be killed and we'd have peace."

        •  Please identify any civilization that perished (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          because of a "no war" policy.

          Waging war on Syria is a violation of international law.  Learn to fuckiing read.

          Fiat justitia ruat caelum "Let justice be done though the heavens fall."

          by bobdevo on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 05:17:41 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  So is using Sarin gas on your own people. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            So there should be no consequences for doing so?

          •'s tricky (0+ / 0-)

            There is a recognized ability for states to intervene in civil wars on humanitarian grounds. Hell there is even precedent for a state to intervene on grounds of outside help (Russia arming the government could be considered outside help, but somewhat equalized by Saudi Arabia arming the rebels). As I posted above Humanitarian intervention isn't really codified in international law, which is nebulous and still evolving. So there is an agreement that states can do it, but no one really has any idea at what point or how states can do it. UN authorized action is tricky and always thinking the UN will do the "correct" (in quotes as I don't want to hint that this is correct) is never guaranteed based on geopolitical reasons.

            •  "There is a recognized ability for states (0+ / 0-)

              to intervene in civil wars"

              If there is some exception to the laws of war for unilateral military intervention when the recognized government is fighting rebel forces please cite the authority, cause otherwise why didn't we intervene in Chechnya?

              Fiat justitia ruat caelum "Let justice be done though the heavens fall."

              by bobdevo on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 10:21:22 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I did list the criteria (0+ / 0-)

                When one side or the other is receiving help from another foreign power. You could think of it as counter intervention. Particularly codified in Article 7 and 8 of the UN Deceleration on the definition of Aggression, Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations, and Cooperation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

                It gives limited right for states to intervene. Mill argued during the attempted succession of Hungary in 1849 that Britain should have intervened once Russia invaded at the behest of Austria once it looked like Hungary was going to win independence.

                Mostly the criteria seen as applicable are that they be willing to fight, make some headway, and show that the current government needs some form of assistance to win. That the Syrian rebels show all of this is up for debate.

  •  Bush's real legacy? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    He ruined war for the rest of us.

  •  Peace (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Parthenia, ybruti

    For a start, can we at least follow international law (that we, as a country, have agreed to follow)?

  •  Interesting diary (5+ / 0-)

    I appreciate that you acknowledge the complexities involved. On a case by case basis, I might not always share your conclusions but I'm extremely grateful that there are people who stand as you do and express it as you do.

  •  that hideous phrase (0+ / 0-)

    Anytime somebody invokes the phrase "just war" you can be sure that, fairly soon, there will be some kind of b.s. reason as to why we need to inflict violence on people.

    Self-defense is a just cause.  The rest is all b.s.

    There is no big red button that the US can push to make everything in Syria get better, to punish the unjust while protecting the innocent.  This isn't a Hollywood movie.  

    Unless you think the US should take over Syria, it's just not our concern.  And anybody who thinks the US should take over Syria should make the argument honestly and not hide it behind the tendentious language of "just wars".

    •  Too simplistic. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FG, Wee Mama, fladem

      Exhibit A for the success of "just war" is the US-led NATO bombing of Serbia that led to a fairly quick resolution of the Serbian-Bosnian war, in which the Serbs had been slaughtering Bosnian civilians, and the UN had been doing nothing about it. (Google Srebrenica.) In fact, the UN was preventing Bosnians from escaping to third countries, and also preventing Bosnians from getting arms to defend themselves. The Serbs, meanwhile, had essentially all the arms from the old Yugoslav Army.

      The UN was a grotesque caricature of "peacekeeping"--slaughterkeeping was more like it.

      If it were reasonably clear that a strike on Assad could have the same success as the NATO strikes on Serbia, I would endorse a strike on Assad. Unfortunately that is far from clear.

      "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

      by HeyMikey on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 01:29:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  A nice distortion of history. (0+ / 0-)

        I'm just curious, what do all the pro-war people commenting on this diary think of the USA use of poison gas? We killed many yellow folks in Vietnam and injure many or our soldiers. Ask anyone who was there on the ground.

        War is costly. Peace is priceless!

        by frostbite on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 05:42:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Deflection, oversimplifcation. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Wee Mama

          All governments--all humans--are imperfect. If everybody who is a hypocrite must bow out, then nobody can ever do anything.

          In what way is my summary of Balkan history distorted?

          "Pro-war" is oversimplifying. As I have said in other comments, I do not know what the right thing to do is. Or rather, the least wrong thing to do. I recognize that a citizen has a responsibility to take a position. I intend to follow the Congressional debate and try to make up my mind.

          Regardless of which way Congress votes, I think Obama is right to bring Congress in on the debate. This is a Constitutional democracy; the Constitution vests the power to declare war in Congress; the debate promotes democratic (small-d) accountability.

          "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

          by HeyMikey on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 06:18:39 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Agreed wholeheartedly. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I do think the option should remain on the table, in case all other options are exhausted.  And also because I think whether or not it would have the same level of success should at least be looked into.

  •  I've just sent an email to my Congressional Rep (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    That odious piece of dogshit known the world over as Mike Rogers. I told him that I have no doubt that he will cast a vote to support his masters in the MIC, and that he had no problem rejecting the voices of those he is SUPPOSED to represent as that is ALL HE HAS DONE since he was first elected.

    I made a point to let him know that this was my 2nd contact with him, and his office revealed it's incomepetence to me with their last reply that was not only OFF TOPIC in regards to my contact, it was also addressed to someone else, although the mailing address was correct.

    Don't simply post your revulsion to the latest proposed act of violence by our government on different news blogs, CONTACT YOUR REP, LET YOUR VOICE BE KNOWN. It may not do much, but I somehow feel better having my concerns with my name attached to it in their fucked up databases.

    There are no profits in ensuring human rights so don't expect your government to do so.

    by The Green Nugget on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 12:18:03 PM PDT

  •  The view from the UK (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Simon Jenkins, former editor of the London Times, now a columnist for the Guardian, wrote a short column about the issue on Sunday: "The west's threat to attack Syria is an idiotic gesture."

    The reason a missile attack on Syria is proving so unpopular on both sides of the that it is a bad idea. "Punishing" a dictator for killing his own people by simply killing more of his own people seems beyond cruel. It seems stupid. It leads nowhere.
    Sir Jenkins points out that the goal of western intervention in Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya was to topple a regime, but that is not the stated goal in Syria, where an attack would merely be "retaliation for a proven breach of international law on chemical weapons." Jenkins calls this "gesture war."
    It will not punish the guilty, such as members of the Assad regime, who should be arraigned before a war crimes court. It will merely destroy buildings and kill people. It seems peculiarly pointless.
    Sir Jenkins opposes "the idiot deployment of aerial bombardment as a cure-all for the world's ills."

    The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right. -- Judge Learned Hand, May 21, 1944

    by ybruti on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 02:27:08 PM PDT

  •  I disagree (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    frostbite, ExpatGirl

    but tipped and recced for your words and approach.

    To me 'just war' is just a phrase, a sop what matters is the answer to the questions 'what are the consequences to acting and what are are the consequences to not acting?'

  •  Those who think we should attack Syria (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    frostbite, bobdevo

    should sign up.  They should sign up their kids and grand kids, too, and go over there.  And leave the rest of us alone in peace.  Is that too much to ask?


    Congrats. You've been divided and conquered. We're all serfs now.

    by Smoke and Mirrors on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 04:16:44 PM PDT

    •  I will, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      as soon as you sign up yourself and your family members to be victims of a Sarin gas attack.

      Unless you favor some kind of non-violent humanitarian intervention, I don't see how the "we shouldn't risk American lives on this" argument doesn't imply that Syrian lives are worth less than American ones.

      •  no, you moro... (0+ / 0-)

        i don't need to sign up for something i don't believe in. but since you are advocating war, i'm going to periodically check in and make sure you follow through on your pledge to enlist, chickenhawk "dude."

        go die for me, chickenhawk!  i promise i'll buy a "support our troops" bumper sticker in your honor. hell, i'll buy two since you're enlisting your kids!

        Congrats. You've been divided and conquered. We're all serfs now.

        by Smoke and Mirrors on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 11:40:09 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  How is not wanting innocent people to die (0+ / 0-)

          the same as advocating war?

          I've never said this should be our first response. I've repeatedly said that I think all non-military possibilities should be exhausted first.

          Do you favor non-violent humanitarian intervention?  If not, please explain how you are not advocating for letting thousands of innocent people die.

          I'm not a chickenhawk.  I simply don't think that dictators who kill their own people should be allowed to continue to do so unpunished.

          As I said, if you're so comfortable with allowing this many innocent people to die, then surely you're ok with signing up to die yourself for that cause.

  •  Standing up for Israel is the most just cause! (0+ / 0-)

    Standing up for Israel is the most just cause there could ever be...
    Weapons of mass destruction can never threaten Israel.

    •  Good gravy! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      That is the most absurd thing I have ever heard in my life! What makes the cause for Israel the best, most noble on the planet? Why is slaughter because Israel wants it, by default a good thing? Other than your belief that a supernatural being designated Israel the best thing since sliced bread, I mean. Not all of us share your superstitions and I sincerely hope far fewer share your apparent bloodthirstiness and your puerile belief that everything good for Israel is ipso facto, good. Weapons of mass destruction ARE threatening Israel, genius. If you don't think there are still Russian nukes pointed at your little Shangri-La, if you don't believe Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, (not to mention Syria), have battle plans involving nuclear, chemical and biological weapons worked out and standing by, then I have a bridge for sale....CHEAP! But by all means, stay in your little world, I'd rather not have you in mine anyway.

      "Given the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for a real Republican every time." Harry Truman

      by MargaretPOA on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 06:26:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Uh, isn't that why Israel has nukes? n/t (0+ / 0-)

      Fiat justitia ruat caelum "Let justice be done though the heavens fall."

      by bobdevo on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 10:57:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Good diary (0+ / 0-)

    I was thinking of reintroducing the history of the doctrine to DK myself.

    Here is my guru on the topic.  He has a workshop on Christian Non-violence that is outstanding.  In this video he discusses the Just War theory in context of what he refers to as Gospel Nonviolence.  If you can make it through the first 8:30 minutes of background,...

    Well actually starting at 10:00 works fairly well and 5 minutes from there introduces his main ideas.

    I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

    by Satya1 on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 06:20:03 PM PDT

  •  Great diary, cabatretic. (0+ / 0-)

    Lots of food for thought.

    I would like to make a small correction though.   St Augustine of Hippo and St Thomas Aquinas were centuries apart: Augustine lived from 354-430 CE while Thomas Aquinas lived from 1225-1274.  They were both medieval philosophers, however.

  •  I respectfully disagree (0+ / 0-)

    I have studied Just War Theory extensively and written many times about its application.  Although Aquinas is the most well known authority, Christian Just War closely matches that of Islam (in contrast Judaic Just War theory is almost non-existent due to thousands of years of being on the wrong end of things) as well as most non-religious thinkers.

    I would be interested to know where the idea of no weapons comes from as  never encountered that in all of my studies.  And while certain aspects of World War II would fail some just war tests (fire bombing of Dresden comes to mind) the overall conflict falls squarely on the good side of Just War calculations.  

    As for the conflict in Syria and our possible intervention, I am not sure what Sir Thomas would think.

    Just cause

    It would seem stopping the use of chemical weapons on unprepared civilian populations would be a just cause.

    Comparative justice

    Defending civilians against chemicals would seem to fit.

    Competent authority

    Both tough and easy - obviously the President is the CIC.  But it would be better if the UN, Arab League or some other multi national authority agreed.

    Right intention

    Questionable.  Some thing kit is, some not.  But most who oppose do so on general rather than specific grounds.

    Last resort

    Also questionable.  It could be argued that the regime was warned that use of chemicals was a red line that would not be tolerated.  But since we dont have any formal way to discuss this with the Assad it could be argued that we have not met this standard.

    Overall I would say that in GENERAL what has been discussed as a response meets the Just War standard.  The real test will be of the actual action.  Will it stay within the just war framework?  History says it will not as it is far easier to start a just war than to wage one.

    It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

    by ksuwildkat on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 09:22:37 PM PDT

  •  Real question: How do we stop mass murder/genocide (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wee Mama, prfb, melfunction

    We really need to be debating what are all the options for stopping genocide/mass murder.  We turn to war because there are so few other options.  We need to broaden the alternatives.  

    Unfortunately, I have no answers to that question.  What say ye oh wise Kossacks?

  •  For people interesting on the topic of Just Wars (0+ / 0-)

    I would highly suggest reading "Just and Unjust Wars" by Michael Walzer. Intervention being the entirety of Chapter 6 in the book.

  •  Thank you (0+ / 0-)

    It's important for theological and ethical pacifism to be voiced, especially in times like these.

  •  You may win this time (0+ / 0-)

    Seven members of the Foreign Relations Committee voted against the resolution, including two Democrats.  There is hope.

    When the United States becomes a low wage country, only bobbleheads shall go forth from American soil.

    by amyzex on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 02:29:30 PM PDT

  •  Beyond Just War Theory (0+ / 0-)

    Thanks for this post.  As a member of a Quaker Meeting, I am one of those rooted in a traditional Peace Church perspective.  This is not a forum to discuss the intricacies of theology; but I would like to offer that the peace churches (Amish/Mennonite, Brethren, and Quaker) did not base their anti-war commitments on Just War Theory.  Nowhere in the early Quaker writings will you find opposition to war based on such an approach (see, for example, Barclay's 'Apology'; if I remember correctly it is in the 15th section).  Personally, I do not believe that Just War Theory can function as a deterrent to actual warfare.  In fact, I can't think of a single instance in which Just War Theory acted as such a deterrent.  It is my belief that the peace churches have lost touch with the reasoning that gave birth to their peace testimony and have lapsed into a Just War Theory analysis because that is the dominant mode of analysis in our culture.  It is dominant because it always finds an excuse for supporting a war.

    Thanks again for raising these issues.

    Best wishes,


    P.S.  Regarding those who are going all Godwin on us -- it isn't 1939 and Assad is not Hitler.

  •  Voting out of office time.... (0+ / 0-)

    We are not the world's cops. Especially when other nations won't chip in.

    cheerleaders need not apply.

    by kravitz on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 07:51:12 PM PDT

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