Libya and Just War

President Obama, winner of the Nobel peace prize, has thrust the United States into yet another war. I know from facebook and twitter that many of Obama’s liberal supporters are shocked and upset with the decision. It really shouldn’t surprise anyone. As I noted out in the run-up to the election, Obama never was a peace candidate, much less a proponent of just war theory. Instead he uses roughly the same calculus for war as Bush did, though as Douthat points out he uses a more multilateral approach once he’s made that calculus. Obama’s position as a peace candidate was grounded more in not being a Republican than being a believer in peace, and it is the fault of those advocates for peace that they didn’t do the basic research to see that truth. I am curious to see if this has changed the minds of many of the more “liberal” Catholics who voted for Obama, but I have not seen anything from them yet.

Since most of our attention was on Japan, I think most Catholics and Americans are still feeling a little whiplashed by the quickness. It’s so difficult to determine whether this action was just b/c there is so much confusion and secrecy both about our true intents towards Libya as well as the actual situation in Libya. The Vatican hasn’t been able to offer much guidance either. It is true that Pope Benedict’s neutral statements are far less condemnatory (if they are condemnatory at all) than JPII’s during the buildup to Iraq, but the key word there is “buildup.” There was very little buildup, and very little opportunity for debate and dialogue before the war was begun. It is true that the Vatican is more comfortable with a multilateral, UN-endorsed war than a unilateral war but it is not certain whether the Vatican approves.

So we’ll need to rely on the sources of just war doctrine ourselves to determine whether this was a just war. I confess that I don’t feel comfortable enough with the facts of Libya to say for certain, but I find it very unlikely that this is a just war. Don did a post a few days ago with different just war standards, and just for the sake of brevity let’s assume that there are two different approaches to just war: the Thomistic approach and the current approach.

Under the Thomistic approach, there are 3 requirements in the Second Part of the Second part, Question 40: (1) that the war be declared by a legitimate sovereign; (2) that there be a just cause; and (3) there must be an intention of advancement of good. Catechism 2309 has a more detailed description (I would argue that they simply explain further what Aquinas is saying rather than raising the requirements, but that may be an argument for a different time) in which the aggressor nation (i.e. the one to be attacked) must be inflicting lasting, grave, and certain damage, all other means must be exhausted, there must serious prospects of success, and the use of arms must not produce greater evils than the evils sought to be prevented. Let’s look at the Libya situation in detail


This war was declared by a legitimate sovereign, either by Obama or by the United Nations. However, this requirement ought to give us some pause. While the US intervention meets this, the original war was a revolution/civil war declared by no sovereign with legitimate authority (unless Qaddafi meets that requirement & declared the war rather than responded to the rebel attacks). Although Americans are very fond of revolutions, Aquinas was very reluctant to endorse them because of the inevitable anarchy and chaos that follow, with the result being a tremendous amount of evil.

There seems to be a just cause here: namely the humanitarian protect of Libyan citizens from harm. However, the question really comes down to is that the true intention? Serious questions need to be asked about why under this reasoning we are intervening in Libya but chose not to do so in Iran and continue to abstain in Bahrain. After all, the true intentions are what matter and is is difficult to discern with so little discussion what the intent of the UN powers is.

Finally under the Aquinas account, they must advance good. I think this includes in the modern definition the prospects for success as well as the admonition to avoid doing more harm. Pope Benedict has expressed reservations that any modern war, considering the capacities for destruction as well as modern warfare’s tendency to become urban fighting, can meet this requirement. It is true that the UN has tried to limit itself to just airstrikes, but it is questionable whether an effective protection of the people of Libya can come through air alone. Thus a more extensive war may be required. This is particularly true if there are areas at the end which the rebels control and aid is required to assist them to secure peace.

However, this is sort of speculation, as I’m presuming different definitions of success. What is most troubling about this campaign, and what probably prevents it from being a just war under any theory, is the total lack of an objective. You cannot have reasonable prospects of success if at the outset there is no definition of what success is. Is it stopping the massacres? Is it thwarting Qaddafi’s attempts to crush the rebellion? Is it removing Qaddafi? If it is, what are we seeking? Who are the rebels? Is there someone in power? Are we deciding the government or are the Libyans? And who is we? The UN + the Arab League? Just the Arab League? Perhaps mostly the US?

While it would be unreasonable to anticipate every possible solution, it is reasonable to require governments to have a much more detailed and settled plan before going to war so that they and their peoples can have a basis on which to determine whether a war will do more harm than good. They still haven’t decided who is actually going to be a part of the no-fly zone, with no one willing to pick up the bag. Considering our lack of resolve coupled with the immense damage modern wars do, it is very difficult to make an argument that we will do more good than harm.

As for the catechism’s other requirements, I presume Qaddafi’s attacks & killings would meet this requirement. The other one is more difficult, as it requires all means of dialogue and negotiation to have been exhausted. It’s clear the UN didn’t do much but on the other hand if  you describe it as an emergency action I’m not sure how much time & negotiation they really had. Part of the problem here to my mind is that the UN sat back and hoped the Libyan rebels would win like they did in Egypt, and when they started getting rolled back they quickly decided they had to do something. I imagine the war fails this requirement, but I’m not sure how demanding this requirement is if there’s a legitimate emergency.

In closing, it appears unlikely that this action satisfies the Church’s requirements for a just war, particularly b/c there is a lack of an objective goal that would prevent the damage of anarchy & chaos that follows the violent overthrow of a regime. This coupled with the damage of modern warfare as well as many other questions that surround this hasty war suggest to me that Catholics ought to oppose this as an unjust war. Regardless, all Catholics ought to follow the example of the pope and pray for peace in Libya.

69 Responses to Libya and Just War

  • Actually, we’re going for–ta da!–regime change!

    http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/151191-white-house-suggests-regime-change-is-goal-of-libya-mission

    This time for sure, Bullwinkle.

  • “… he uses a more multilateral approach …”

    By multilateral, I’m assuming you’re not including Congressional consultation.

    Not only that, Bush waited months before attacking Iraq, trying to build support both at home and abroad for a coalition to oust Saddam. If I’m not mistaken, he actually had more countries involved in that effort than are currently involved in the efforts to oust Ghadaffi.

    Our Nobel laureate’s rush to war makes W look downright deliberate.

  • That said, I don’t believe either the justification for attacking Iraq or the justification for attacking Libya met the just war prerequisites.

  • You indicated in your essay that the UN is a legitimate sovereign. The UN is sovereign of nothing. It is a conglomeration of loosely affiliated nations. It has no sovereign (nope, the UN Secretary General doesn’t count, nor does the UN Security Council). I fear a world in which a non-sovereign body like the UN can declare war.

    As for Obama, up to the 2008 election he said that the US President doesn’t have the ability to wage war without going to Congress and getting its consent first. Well, he didn’t get Comngress’ concurrence for this attack.

    This is all so simple to see: under the liberal Democrats (who are in a state of confusion over Obama’s decision for war) we are on the path to a world-wide UN-sponsored dictatorship, and under the Republicans we are on the path to a unilateral Empire. What exactly is the difference?

    Jesus’ Kingdom isn’t of this world and this mess will only be straightened out when He returns to Earth. I WANT Him to return – and soon. Don’t you? I place no hope in the machinations of man, UN, US, or otherwise. My hope is in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead, never to die again.

  • I believe it’s a stretch (at best) to frame this as a just war.

  • Well, nothing really passes the just war test, does it? I’ll come out and say it: just war doctrine bothers me. Is it “unjust” to oppose an aggressive tyrant because you don’t have (and couldn’t possibly ever have) a legitimate sovereign to declare your opposition? And exactly how good do the opposition’s chances of success have to be before it becomes “just?”

    Is a different calculus applied to Libyan opposition and American involvement? If so, why?

    Although I have no horse in the Libyan race (which is why I think it’s prudentially very ill advised to take sides in this case), I don’t see how the Libyan rebels are waging an “unjust” war when it was the result of Qaddafi’s aggression against his own people. Pacifist leanings aside, if you fight back against a thug and bully, how is your action unjust? And if someone decides to help you in that fight, how could that assistance be unjust?

    Fighting back against dictators like Saddam and Qaddafi who have no problem using violence against their own people doesn’t seem like an injustice to me. Prudentially, it might not make sense to join that fight, but that’s a different question. If it’s not “just” to defend one’s self and one’s family against murderers, then I don’t know what to make of just war doctrine.

  • I will weep no tears if the butcher of Lockerbie finally meets justice.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pan_Am_Flight_103

    It says something very bad about our time that a murderous psychopath like Gaddafi has been in power for four decades.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muammar_Gaddafi

  • Applying the intention category in a modern setting is tricky because there are a lot of actors involved and the intentions and objectives of the action probably vary a great deal from person to person. For example, there is one group among the supporters who seem to view this solely as a humanitarian exercise. Gaddafi was getting ready to slaughter a bunch of civilians and see the no fly zone as a means of preventing that rather than as a means of aiding the rebels or removing Gaddafi. There is also a group, however, for whom removing Gaddafi is the real goal.

    I suspect that there are also a lot of people who want to see Gaddafi gone but who don’t want the West to be seen as having removed him. When it looked like the rebels were going to win on their own, this group opposed involvement, but once it became clear that the rebels were going to lose unless Gaddafi’s air power was taken away, they flipped and supported intervention under the guise of purely humanitarian concerns. My guess is that Obama and Secretary Clinton fall into this camp.

  • It might also be worth asking what exactly we know about the various rebel groups that are fighting Gaddafi. When the question was raised on one of the Sunday shows, Wolfowitz said that it didn’t matter who the rebels were exactly because nothing could be worse than Gaddafi, which is very very not true.

  • Not only the intention category, but also the probability of success. There might be a low probability of strategic success (e.g., regime change), but a very high probability of tactical success (e.g., stopping this tank from shelling my neighborhood). I suppose it’s called just *war* theory and not just *battle* theory, but wars are fought at the tactical level. To the Libyan rebel trying to repel that tank, the chances of strategic success aren’t foremost in mind. Which is why it seems so hard to apply a one-size-fits-all just/unjust label to a conflict like this.

  • “Wolfowitz said that it didn’t matter who the rebels were exactly because nothing could be worse than Gaddafi, which is very very not true.”

    Someone could conceivably be worse than Gaddafi, but that seems to me be a poor argument for not taking fairly minimal steps to help escort him off the stage of history. Gaddafi has been a menace not only to his own people luckless enough to live under his rule, but to all the people who have died due to his support for terrorist actions abroad. Getting rid of him is an exercise in international hygiene. Obama and I stand shoulder to shoulder on this. (One can contact me for signed copies of that last statement at a minimal fee. :)) We stand shoulder to shoulder of course until Obama changes his mind on the policy.

  • By multilateral, I’m assuming you’re not including Congressional consultation.

    Yeah, no one seems to do that nowadays. Its true Congressional consultation is a very good thing, but alas a lost art.

    The UN is sovereign of nothing.

    I misstated my position then; the Vatican sees the UN as a legitimate authority (though not sovereign) to arbitrate international conflicts, particularly the decision to go to war. Thus the Vatican wants countries to discuss their issues before the UN before going to war, in part b/c it ensures that there is more dialogue & negotiation before the last resort is used.

    Fighting back against dictators like Saddam and Qaddafi who have no problem using violence against their own people doesn’t seem like an injustice to me. Prudentially, it might not make sense to join that fight, but that’s a different question.

    Aquinas puts it in that the offense against the people needs to be pretty bad and that the revolution won’t cause more harm. I don’t want to pass judgment on the rebels b/c I don’t know what Qaddafi was doing at the time, but it is a high burden. It can however be met and I think if I was being attacked, I would fight back.

    I will weep no tears if the butcher of Lockerbie finally meets justice.

    No question he’s a bad person. No question we should have done more earlier. But being a tyrant doesn’t automatically justify war (not saying you’re saying that), as the civilians are going to be harmed as well.

    Applying the intention category in a modern setting is tricky because there are a lot of actors involved and the intentions and objectives of the action probably vary a great deal from person to person.

    I agree. I imagine the intention is more applicable on a personal level. So I imagine the soldier who goes to Iraq to help them rebuild is different from the politician seeking to improve his legacy or secure oil or any other possible nefarious motives.

    When the question was raised on one of the Sunday shows, Wolfowitz said that it didn’t matter who the rebels were exactly because nothing could be worse than Gaddafi, which is very very not true.

    I completely agree, which is why a better plan was needed. We may be creating a worse monster.

  • Someone could conceivably be worse than Gaddafi, but that seems to me be a poor argument for not taking fairly minimal steps to help escort him off the stage of history.

    It was this line of reasoning that brought the Bolsheviks to power. Not only is something worse than Gaddafi conceivable, statistically speaking it is likely.

  • As usual, this all Ronald Reagan’s fault.

    He missed…

  • Many bloggers have addressed the common and faulty argument that opposing one tyrant means having to oppose all tyrants using the same methods, probability of success be damned.

    As for the last resort requirement, I can’t imagine a situation where dialog would make Qaddafi step down or the rebels to give up that demand and I don’t think there’s anyone who’d disagree.

    Primavera, you don’t need a legitimate sovereign but a legitimate authority and the Holy Father considers the UN a legitimate authority.

  • “It was this line of reasoning that brought the Bolsheviks to power. Not only is something worse than Gaddafi conceivable, statistically speaking it is likely.”

    Rubbish. What brought the Bolsheviks to power was a building revolutionary crisis in tsarist Russia for decades, Russian military failure in WW I, that poor doomed Nicholas II couldn’t lead a dog with a leash and that Kerensky was much better at making speeches than running a revolutionary regime. As for the statistical argument, I assume that you just tossed that in as a throw away line since I very much doubt that any such statistical studies relating to the aftermaths of the downfall of tyrants exist. I can think of several examples off the top of my head to the contrary, including Hitler, Mussolini, the Japanese militarists, Saddam, Ceausescu in Rumania, Franco, albeit he was “toppled” only by the Grim Reaper, etc. Contrary examples can be summoned up, but to assume that a worse tyrant will replace a toppled one is a mere recipe never to take action even against the most odious of tyrants, since one can never predict what the future will bring with certainty.

  • Actually of course the Western Allied forces, including the US, did, in a haphazard fashion sponsor efforts by the White Russian forces to topple the Bolsheviks after they seized power in November 1917 in the following Russian Civil War. Would that they had succeeded in introducing Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin to the ashheap of history.

  • RR,

    Did the Pope confide in you as to what he considers legitimate authority? By e-mail or phone?

    ;-)

    Perhaps he did, perhaps he didn’t. Nevertheless, whatever the case may be, the UN is NOT a legitimate authroity over sovereign nations. Never has been. But if the Obamanation of Desolation has his way, it will become the ONLY authority.

  • With all respect to the Pope, the UN has all the moral authority of a Chicago ward boss caught with his hand in the till.

  • Don. . . the man who has never met a war that is not just or he has not loved. Using your rational we should be bombing half the world to be sanitizing it of tyrants. It is far better that innocent civilians should die as collateral damage a result of our humanitarian air attacks and sanctions than should die at the hands of their own leaders.

    “It was this line of reasoning that brought the Bolsheviks to power. Not only is something worse than Gaddafi conceivable, statistically speaking it is likely.”

    Ok, then lets look at the rational for WWI we fought the tyrant Kaiser resulting in the rise of Hitler . . . we fought the tyrant Hitler resulting in the the Soviet enslavement of Eastern Europe. . . we fought the Japanese in China resulting in its turn over to Mao . . . we backed rebels in Afghanistan to weaken the USSR resulting in the Taliban . . . and on and on and on and on.

  • Primavera, the pope, then cardinal, confided in the press. http://www.zenit.org/article-5398?l=english

  • In all this discussion, how many people think that Joshua’s war against the people in Canaan was just, i.e., when God told him to slay every man, woman and child? How many think that the war which Kings Saul and David waged against the Philistines was just? How many think that the war which the Maccabbean brothers waged against the Seleucid Empire was just?

    War is hell. If you’re not there to ruthlessly, quickly and completely defeat the enemy, then get the heck out. I have grave misgivings over this war in Libya. But what do I know? I am a nuclear engineer (not a good thing to admit to after the events at Fukushima Daiichi), not a theologian, or a sociologist, or a psychologist.

    And yes, I would love it if we got out of the UN and told that band of thieves and murderers to leave NYC. But then again, we’d half to evacuate much of the remaining part of NYC since they too are thieves and murderers of the same sort. Can’t we just cut Manhattan off and tow it out to the middle of the Atlantic?

    ;-)

  • RR,

    The text on the web page does not state, “I, Pope Benedict XVI, consider the UN a legitimate authority.” However, it’s entirely likely that he does. With all due respect, in this matter he is not infallible. The UN has no legitimacy. Just look at the madness of the world. No one really listens to (much less obeys) the UN except for the Obamanation of Desolation, and perhaps France, Germany and a few other Western European nations. In this matter, what you state as the Pope’s position is a feeling generally shared by those of Western Europe who continue in their sad slide into abject secularism and atheism.

  • Ok, then lets look at the rational for WWI we fought the tyrant Kaiser resulting in the rise of Hitler . . . we fought the tyrant Hitler resulting in the the Soviet enslavement of Eastern Europe. . . we fought the Japanese in China resulting in its turn over to Mao . . . we backed rebels in Afghanistan to weaken the USSR resulting in the Taliban . . . and on and on and on and on.

    Not saying reason and prudence should go out the window, but this list is a bit misconceived. Let’s try it this way.

    Ok, then lets look at the rational for WWI we fought the tyrant Kaiser resulting in the end of what was at the time the great (and senseless!) bloodbath known…we fought the tyrant Hitler resulting in the liberation of Western Europe, stopping the slaughter of millions of innocent peoples of various ethnic and political groups, as well as stabilizing the continent…we fought the Japanese in China resulting in the halt of a bloody and barbaric empire and the liberation of millions…we backed rebels in Afghanistan to weaken the USSR which worked and is in part responsible for the collapse of the Soviet Empire which was responsible for the death and enslavement of countless millions as well as many wars . . . and on and on and on and on.

    In each of the above cases the outcome was a good that was intended and was satisfied. True, there is always more to do afterward and while you may find me praising FDR for his war effort, you’ll find equal scorn for his selling out Eastern Europe. Ditto Truman abandoning free China, Bush I not finishing the job in Iraq, etc.

  • Getting rid of him (Gadafi) is an exercise in international hygiene.”

    :lol: guffaw. :-)

    Its time for Gadafi to go, and the reports I am hearing is that now he is randomly shelling civilians in the rebel held towns. So the sooner he is out the better. The reports also say that the UK is leading the action with the US providing most of the firepower, along with France, so that’s to a degree keeping Uncle Sam off the hook politically in the international sense.
    Get rid of him and see what happens – there are a lot of other Arab countries in the region with the same agenda, so maybe its their time.

    I wish the Brits had been as equally keen to put a bullet in Mugabe’s head a few years ago – he’s another despot that needs to go – he has turned the food-basket of southern Africa into a desert.

  • to assume that a worse tyrant will replace a toppled one is a mere recipe never to take action even against the most odious of tyrants

    I never said we should assume this, just that we should not assume the contrary. Yes, you can cite examples where the violent overthrow of a government has improved things. But you can cite many more examples where it has made things worse. France in 1789, Russia in 1917, China in 1949, Cuba in 1959, Iraq and Vietnam in 1963, Iran and Nicaragua in 1979, Rhodesia in 1980. I could go on, but you get the idea.

    Personally I do not have a strong opinion about the wisdom of the Libya action. It might be that given the circumstances this is the best course of action. What I find distressing, however, is how many people simply dismiss the question of what replaces Gaddafi as if it isn’t worth considering. That does not fill me with confidence that their conclusion he should be removed is justified.

  • “Don. . . the man who has never met a war that is not just or he has not loved. Using your rational we should be bombing half the world to be sanitizing it of tyrants.”

    Ah, Marv Wood, the man who does not know what the phrase”you are banned from this site” means apparently. I’ll leave your comment up Marv since this is Michael’s thread. For those who haven’t been around Saint Blogs as long as I have, Marv doesn’t believe we should have fought againt the Third Reich and has a real bee in his bonnet about Israel and Jews.

    RL has dealt with your feeble red herring Marv. My reasons for supporting toppling Gaddafi are because his people are already in revolt against him, giving him some belated justice this side of the grave and hopefully stopping him from adding much more to his tally of slain innocents.

  • “France in 1789, Russia in 1917, China in 1949, Cuba in 1959, Iraq and Vietnam in 1963, Iran and Nicaragua in 1979, Rhodesia in 1980. I could go on, but you get the idea.”

    France in 1789-mixed. The Revolutionary regime was bad. I find it hard to see how Napoleon was a worse tyrant than Louis XIV for example.

    Russia 1917-The Kerensky regime, the February Revolution, was better than that of Nicholas II. The seizure of power by the Bolsheviks in 1917 is actually an argument I think in favor of international action against tyrants.

    China 1949-Once again, wouldn’t that be an argument in favor of international action against a tyrant, Mao, after his seizure of power?

    Cuba 1959-Ah the dictator who got his job courtesy, in part, of some bad reporting by the New York Times. Once again a good argument for international action. Something that Kennedy should have contemplated prior to the Bay of Pigs in 61.

    Iraq? I am not sure what you are referring to, unless you are talking about the coup that brought the Baath party to power: that occurred in 1968. Arif who took power in 1963 with some Baathist support, quickly turned on the Baathists and locked up Saddam until Saddam escaped from prison in 1967. (Too bad he didn’t execute him.) Arif I think was an improvement on Qasim who he overthrew in 63. Saddam would prove to be far worse than Arif.

    Vietnam-1963-Nah, I don’t think Thieu was any worse than Diem. They were both plaster saints compared to Ho. I also think that it is a canard that that event had any long lasting impact on how the Vietnam War played out.

    Iran-1979-Ah the poor Shah trying to rely on limp reed Carter. The Shah was a tyrant and Khomeini and his successors have been worse.

    Nicaragua-1979-Actually I think the Nicaraguans are better off today than they were under Somoza, even with Danny Ortega back in power. With intervention by Reagan and the contras against the Sandinistas compelling them to hold a free election that they lost in 1989, and which led to the democratization of Nicaragua, on the whole I think the process was ultimately beneficial for the Nicaraguan people rather than a few more decades under the latest scion of clan Somoza.

    Rhodesia-1980-One man, one vote, one time. Yep Mugabe turned out to be a worse tyrant than Ian Smith ever was. I do not think however that negates the essential justice of blacks fighting to have votes and legal rights in their own country.

  • The world is certainly well rid of Gaddafi. It’s unfortunate it didn’t happen when Reagan bombed the joint back in the 1980′s. I am uneasy though, about the lack of a game plan.

    Doesn’t France get much of its oil from Libya? I search in vain for indignant leftist protesters marching and holding “No Blood for Oil” signs outside of French embassies. It’s fine for the French to act in their own self-interest, but dreadful when we Yanks do it. To some, apparently, French approval of and participation in a particular action is akin to some sort of moral Michelin star.

    Let’s see, according to Marv, no war has ever solved the world’s problems on a permanent basis so therefore we should never fight wars. There is only one way the world’s problems will be solved on a permanent basis and it’s called The Second Coming. I don’t think that means we should give the world’s monsters carte blanche to do what they will until Christ appears again.

  • Looking at just one aspect of the Just War doctrine. The war is lawful in International Law. At least for countries that have signed the treaty establishing the UN.

    Prior to the UN a country had to meet the Just War Doctrine to lawfully go to war, though that was sometimes honored only in the sophistries presented in argument. Since then it is governed by Chapter VII of the UN charter. While the the article 51 of that chapter allows countries to go to war in self-defense that is not the main part of the chapter. If the Security Council determines by 10 votes no vetos that a “threat to peace” exits it may order enforcement actions including going to war. All members are supposed to support it according to their means. The counties providing the 10 votes no vetoes can base their votes on any criteria they want. I assume that the drafters of the Charter assumed they would use the JWD but with so few members of the council being Western and even the Western countries governed by seculars politicians I see little room for confidence that this is the case.

    The Security Council has voted literally 10 votes no veto’s that there is a threat to international peace and a enforcement action is needed. Just what is that threat. One possibility. The coalition would go to war without it.

    Whether or not it meets the Just War standards – The war is legal in International Law.

    This is not to say that Kaddafi is not a first class tyrant and Libya and the world would be just as well off without him, we cannot forget the larger issues in discussing the question.

  • This war presents a view of an aspect of the Just War doctrine that is often overlooked.

    There is a tension between the requirement that there be reasonable possibility of success and a resonble possibility the godd accomplished will be greater than the harm caused.

    Many of the prewar calls for a no fly zone seemed to assume a minimal action shooting down military aircraft flying where we don’t want them to fly. A course of action with abput zero probability of success in this situration no matter what the objectives are. The coalition has adopted a much more aggressive means to establish a no fly zone, one that has a chance of success or contributing to a success depending on what the objectives are. A consideration of a reasonable possibility of success pretty much precludes a the minimal force alternative. And is likely to result in the least casualties all around in the long run.

    But it involve a more harmful course of action than many of it’s advocates thought was acceptable.

    A point to keep in mind for future discussions on the JWD.

  • I wish the Brits had been as equally keen to put a bullet in Mugabe’s head a few years ago – he’s another despot that needs to go – he has turned the food-basket of southern Africa into a desert.

    “Many that live deserve death. Many that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.

  • “This war was declared by a legitimate sovereign, either by Obama or by the United Nations.”

    We have a government of separated powers, or in this case, power – the national sovereignty is shared by the President, Congress, and the Judiciary. Pres. Obama cannot commit troops to war without consulting Congress and obtaining a declaration of war.

    As Justice Jackson noted in Youngstown Sheet and Tube v. Sawyer, 343 U. S. 579 (1952):

    “When the President acts pursuant to an express or implied authorization of Congress, his authority is at its maximum, for it includes all that he possesses in his own right plus all that Congress can delegate. In these circumstances, and in these only, may he be said (for what it may be worth) to personify the federal sovereignty. If his act is held unconstitutional under these circumstances, it usually means that the Federal Government, as an undivided whole, lacks power.” – Id. at 635-637.

    Even without direct authorization of war, the President has not even a Congressional resolution to stand on in this case. I do not think he can be considered a legitimate sovereign for the purposes of a just war analysis.

  • ““Many that live deserve death. Many that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”

    Nor even us simpler Hobbits.

  • Government without justice is organized brigandage.

  • One of the great things about Tolkien is that one can find a quotation to suit almost any point of view. I agree with Don the Kiwi in regard to Mugabe who has turned Zimbabwe into a starving police state. I hope that eventually someone will rise up in Zimbabwe and apply the sentiment behind these Tolkien words to a cornered Mugabe:

    ‘We will have peace,’ said Théoden at last thickly and with an effort. Several of the Riders cried out gladly. Théoden held up his hand. ‘Yes, we will have peace,’ he said, now in a clear voice, ‘we will have peace, when you and all your works have perished – and the works of your dark master to whom you would deliver us. You are a liar. Saruman, and a corrupter of men’s hearts. You hold out your hand to me, and I perceive only a finger of the claw of Mordor. Cruel and cold! Even if your war on me was just as it was not, for were you ten times as wise you would have no right to rule me and mine for your own profit as you desired – even so, what will you say of your torches in Westfold and the children that lie dead there? And they hewed Háma’s body before the gates of the Hornburg, after he was dead. When you hang from a gibbet at your window for the sport of your own crows, I will have peace with you and Orthanc. So much for the House of Eorl. A lesser son of great sires am I, but I do not need to lick your fingers. Turn elsewhither. But I fear your voice has lost its charm.’

  • So said Theoden, king of Rohan. But his sword did not strike down Saruman; instead Saruman was allowed to leave.

  • Yes the Ents allow him to leave Orthanc. He then goes to the Shire and sets up a police state under the name of Sharkey. Bad call on the part of the Ents I would say. Better if Theoden had hanged him on a gibbet. Never send a tree to do a king’s job.

  • I never read Tolkein, but what an odd thing to say: “Never send a tree to do a king’s job,” for it was on a tree that our King was hung.

  • paul

    In “Lord of the Rings” the Ents are trees or tree like creatures. They have very laisse faire attatude to other creatures. Exile when most would call for a more serious punishment would be their way. Just don’t get them angry.

  • “Never send a tree to do a king’s job.”

    Nor a Wood? ;)

  • Ok, then lets look at the rational for WWI we fought the tyrant Kaiser resulting in the rise of Hitler . . . we fought the tyrant Hitler resulting in the the Soviet enslavement of Eastern Europe. . . we fought the Japanese in China resulting in its turn over to Mao . . . we backed rebels in Afghanistan to weaken the USSR resulting in the Taliban . . . and on and on and on and on.

    It does not seem to occur to you that priority in time in an element of causality. It is not causality itself. It also does not seem to have occurred to you to tease out the counter-factual scenarios and ask which ones contemporary policy-makers might be expected to select.

    3.

  • I know from facebook and twitter that many of Obama’s liberal supporters are shocked and upset with the decision.

    I’m not.

    It really shouldn’t surprise anyone. As I noted out in the run-up to the election, Obama never was a peace candidate,

    True. I understood that at the time I voted for him and appreciated that fact.

    I am curious to see if this has changed the minds of many of the more “liberal” Catholics who voted for Obama, but I have not seen anything from them yet.

    Here it is now. I approve of the NATO action in Libya and the US involvement. To me, it seems consistent with the thinking of Barack Obama as I understood him at the time I voted for him.

  • Well, nothing really passes the just war test, does it? I’ll come out and say it: just war doctrine bothers me.

    Well, as with many other things, it’s not a clear “you must do this” kind of thing. Whether something passes the just war test has a great deal to do with the inputs one selects, and the selection of inputs depends a great deal on one’s point of view about human existence, violence, how the world works, etc.

    As a result, though who tend to frown on war generally find that virtually no war passes the just war test. And those who are more likely to have a “War never solved anything except slavery, nazism, etc.” are likely to find that a great many interventions pass the just war test.

    In many ways, it seems to provide a structure for argument rather than an answer.

  • Just war theory is actually simple if you ask the question – Who is fighting defensively? If you follow the news closely, it is evident that in Libya, one side is the aggressor and the other side is merely defending itself.

  • OK. Who is fighting defensively?

  • Just war theory is actually simple if you ask the question – Who is fighting defensively? If you follow the news closely, it is evident that in Libya, one side is the aggressor and the other side is merely defending itself.

    Who is fighting defensively overall, or who is fighting defensively at the moment? Near the beginning of the conflict in Libya, Gaddafi was on the defensive, now the rebels are on the defensive.

    Is Gaddafi in a just position because he held power when this started, or are the rebels defending themselves against the injustice of Gaddafi’s tyranny?

    I’m not clear that even your “simple” answer is going to solve many disputes that have real people on both sides.

  • Don, the colonel is no better or worse than any other dictator with blood on his hands. Why, after 40+ years, is must he suddenly “go,” when he has been so long tolerated? Just because the “rebels,” or should we say “rabble” are restless, does that mean we need to take up their “cause”? Why does the U.S. tolerate outlaw regimes in Korea, Iran, half of Latin America, and other countries that are un- or anti-democratic? Could it be the oil?

    If armed sedition arose in America, would not the National Guard be called our to quell the disturbances by whatever means necessary? How is what Ghadaffi doing any different than any other regime that wants to stay in power?

    Finally, why is it our business to interfere in the affairs of sovereign nation? To become involved in Libya’s civil war is no more justified than our sticking our beaks into Iraq and Afghanistan — unless, of course, there’s oil, natural gas and pipelines at stake — worth hundreds of billions to the Exxons of the world.

    “You think you die for your country when you’re actually dying for some industrialist,” one observer once said.

  • I agree with T. Shaw and will add that those who call themselves Catholic and support the Obamanation of Desolation are Catholic in name only. Whatever manner of rationalism and excuses, sophistry and obfuscation one uses, that godless reprobate sitting in the Oval Office is a baby murderer and a sanctifier of homosexual filth. Now that hardly means while I utterly loathe and despise liberalism, progressivism and Democracy (two wolves and one sheep voting on what’s for dinner, in this case the body of an unborn baby), I am enthused with the Republicans. Jesus’ Kingdom is NOT of this world.

    The children of Israel had this same problem back in 1st Samuel chapter 8. They wanted to have a king like the other nations around them, and we wanted a President like the weak-kneed, yellow-bellied, cowardly Europeans. And we got a special kind of coward – one who hesitates to give murderous thugs like Khaddafy what they clearly deserve, but unhestitatingly murders the most innocent and vulnerable members of humanity. Now that’s a real bully of the worst sort.

    I expect nothing good to come out of this action against Libya. The allies are falling apart. Germany has just abandon NATO in the Mediterranean over this. For so long we (i.e., America) have acted as the world’s policeman, and whether that’s right or wrong, the bully in the Oval Office simply isn’t up to the task at hand. Why? Because he is a godless liberal, progressive Democrat (again, not that Republicans are much better, but 1 plus 0 is still 1).

    BTW, no one has answered me: Was it a just war that Joshua waged against the pagans in the land of Canaan as God ordered him to? Was it a just war that Kings Saul and David waged against the Philistines? Was it a just war that the Maccabbean brothers waged against the Seleucid overlords? Were they justified in making a treaty with Sparta and Rome against the Syrians?

    War is hell and no Democrat is up to the task – they would rather murder the unborn (again, Republicans aren’t much better – didn’t I say that a few times already?).

  • tell me again what is the difference between Jihad and your ‘just war’?
    i do not support Gaddaffi but find it a Hypocrisy to approve of an act by usa and when muslims defend their countries it is an act of terrorism

  • Why does the U.S. tolerate outlaw regimes in Korea, Iran, half of Latin America, and other countries that are un- or anti-democratic? Could it be the oil?

    1. With the exception of Cuba, all governments in the western hemisphere are superintended by their elected officials and have been since 1990 or earlier.

    2. Ditto South Korea (since 1987).

    3. In each case, the decision to intervene is going to be influenced by questions of marginal benefit, opportunity, and constraints borne of the quantum of men and materiel involved and reasons of state.

    a. The Far East (especially N. Korea) is within the Chinese sphere of influence. Deference to their preferences is required.

    b. Clocking Iran is a large undertaking, intrudes on Russian and Chinese interests, and precludes a policy of waiting for internal political conflict to do its work. There is an organized and vigorous opposition to the Establishment in Iran. Not so elsewhere in enemy territory.

    Don, the colonel is no better or worse than any other dictator with blood on his hands.

    Oh yes he is.

  • “Don, the colonel is no better or worse than any other dictator with blood on his hands.”

    Disagree Joe. Lockerbie should put him in a class all his own for all Americans. Additionally, Gaddafi has spent his career inflicting violence not only on his own downtrodden people, but around the globe.

    “Why, after 40+ years, is must he suddenly “go,” when he has been so long tolerated?”

    Because he is now an easy target of opportunity since his own people are in rebellion.

    “Why does the U.S. tolerate outlaw regimes in Korea, Iran, half of Latin America, and other countries that are un- or anti-democratic? Could it be the oil?”

    North Korea because we do not want to ignite a Second Korean War, although one fine day I think North Korea will succeed in doing that.

    Iran-because the cost to take out the mullahs would be too high and we are unwilling to do that except as a last resort in the face of a nuclear armed Iran.

    Latin America-Unless a country south of the border is playing footsie with an adversary of the US, the US has been fairly hands off since Johnson’s intervention in the Dominican Republic in 1965.

    “Finally, why is it our business to interfere in the affairs of sovereign nation? To become involved in Libya’s civil war is no more justified than our sticking our beaks into Iraq and Afghanistan — unless, of course, there’s oil, natural gas and pipelines at stake — worth hundreds of billions to the Exxons of the world. ”

    In my mind we do so when it is morally right and it accords with US interest to do so. Afghanistan had served as a refuge for the terrorists who assailed us on 9-11. Saddam had done his best to take over much of the oil vital to us. In each case both had odious oppressive regimes. In the case of Libya I defy anyone to say with a straight face that the Libyan people wouldn’t be better with him gone or that it would not be a good thing from the US standpoint for the butcher of Lockerbie to receive justice.

    ““You think you die for your country when you’re actually dying for some industrialist,” one observer once said.”

    That was Marine Corp General Smedley Butler Joe, and you and I had a long combox discussion about him in which I explained why I found his arguments less than compelling.

  • Art…Unconvincing rebuttals. “There is organized and vigorous opposition to the Establishment…” a comment that could be made about America. Does this mean revolution is coming (again)?

    As for your assertion that Ghadafi is “worse,” facts and figures would be in order. Do we decide this by body count? Do we get into a tit-for-tat with Bush Jr. and Sr., with the lethal effects of their “shock and awe”? Does the U.S. expertise and capability in killing wholesale compare with the “terrorist” incompetence in killing retail?

    Further, notice how the narrative has been spun. The state-controlled media, clearly in the thrall of Obama with some likely on CIA payroll, categorizes the opposition to Ghadafi as “rebels,” “freedom fighters” and “pro-democracy forces” whereas elsewhere, i.e. Iraq and Afghanistan, et. al, (when they are not on “our side,”) they are labeled “terrorists,” “insurgents,” or “radical extremists.”

  • Thanks for helping this half-black manchild ruin my country.

    You’re welcome. It’s comments like that which are sure to help the President be re-elected.

  • It is quite likely that the failed performance of the Obamanation of Desolation will open the eyes of the American people and result in his eviction from the White House in 2012. One may hope and pray. But given that 50% of the Catholics in this country are totally and completely enamored with the false gospel of social justice, the common good and peace at any price instead of the Gospel of conversion and repentance, then his re-election is a possibility. Sadly, these so-called Catholics never learned the lesson in John chapter 6 of the people who followed Jesus around the lake after the feeding of the crowd with the loaves and fishes. They asked Him where he went and He responded that it wasn’t because of the signs they saw that they followed him, but because their bellies were filled. He then admonished them to seek the Bread of Eternal Life. Note that outside of the 5000 and the 4000 He did NOT feed them bread again. Today’s modern Catholics who have been done educated into imbecility are just like that same crowd. Thus we have the man of wickedness in the Oval Office promising bread and delivering up dead babies.

    I don’t expect a Republican to be much better, but 1 + 0 = 1, and Sarah Palin is infinitely preferrable to the little anti-christ who defers to Europe and the UN for his decision on ridding the world of a ruthless dictator while he himself legitimatizes the ruthless dismemberment and death of the unborn. Great going, liberal Catholics. What happened to the children of Israel under the Assyrians and Babylonians will be like a walk in the park compared to what we deserve for our godless sexual promiscuity and our murderous ways.

  • Okay, this is getting deeply silly, guys.

    Intervening in Libya may or may not fit the definition of a just war (I’m not sure I have a fully settled opinion on it, though I’m not going to go out of my way to decry Gaddafi having a bad day) and the mission may or may not be thought out in a strategically sound fashion, but apocalyptic rants are not in order.

    [nor are odd racist comments like the one I just had to put on moderation]

  • I concur with what Darwin just said, especially in regard to racist comments. The American Catholic is not going to tolerate that.

  • “Obama and I stand shoulder to shoulder on this. (One can contact me for signed copies of that last statement at a minimal fee. ) We stand shoulder to shoulder of course until Obama changes his mind on the policy.”

    Problem is Don, Obama has stated that removing Gaddaffi is NOT his objective.

  • Darwin and Don,

    Thank you. I am being totally sincere in saying that it is often difficult for liberals to know what is mainstream conservative thinking and what is outside the bounds. As much as certain statements can be entertaining for us, I would rather be told that they are not representative of conservativism and be expected to accept that.

    When other liberals have referenced such comments, either innocently or knowing that they are unfair representations of conservative thought, my apologies. You do your best to educate me and I will do my best the discipline those on my side (including myself).

  • I still wonder about the question posed by Joe Green at 11:54 am: “why is it our business to interfere in the affairs of [a] sovereign nation?”

    I mean, as a matter of principle, is the government of one country responsible for protecting the people of another country from aggression? Is there any magisterial document on this?

    In the Summa IIaIIae.40.1, St. Thomas says, “as the care of the common weal is committed to those who are in authority, it is their business to watch over the common weal of the city, kingdom or province subject to them. And just as it is lawful for them to have recourse to the sword in defending that common weal against internal disturbances, when they punish evil-doers…so too, it is their business to have recourse to the sword of war in defending the common weal against external enemies.” (newadvent.org)

    I note that St. Thomas speaks of a sovereign waging war on behalf of the city, kingdom, or province subject to it; should a sovereign wage war on behalf of a people *not* subject to it?

    I’d say that a sovereign should definitely go to war not only on behalf of his own people but also on behalf of an ally; but is there any definition of “ally” by which the Libyan rebels would be considered our allies?

  • Kurt, There won’t be anything left in 2012.

  • Darwin:
    The side that targets civilians – that is the aggressor.

    Jonathan:
    Technically, they are not our allies, but based on the knowledge we have right now, they are (apparently) the lesser of two evils.

  • Further, notice how the narrative has been spun. The state-controlled media, clearly in the thrall of Obama with some likely on CIA payroll, categorizes the opposition to Ghadafi as “rebels,”

    You need to lay off the Bircher Kool-Aid, Joe.

    Mr. McClarey has elaborated quite adequately on some of my points. If you find that ‘unconvincing’, you will just have to specify how.

    Strange as it may seem to you, multiple vectors are present in influencing decision-making in international politics.

    With regard to Col. Qadafi’s peculiarities: his regime is not the abbatoir that was Ba’athist Iraq. It has been, however, abnormally repressive. Freedom House has, over a period of 37 years, given it either the lowest possible marks or the next lowest in the realms of civil liberties and political rights. It invested in research in weapons of mass destruction, apropos of ambitions few countries of its size have. It financed, trained and harbored international brigands in expression of atavisms which are fairly atypical as well. It is a weirdly revanchist and oddly ambitious regime. It is also oddly durable. Hasn’t been a chance like this to get rid of him in 40-odd years.

  • In the NY Times article written by the four journalists held captive in Libya, the Qaddafi loyalists seemed perplexed that the United States would side against them because, in their view, the opposition is a bunch of upstart Islamists and al Qaeda affiliates. Which goes to show, I think, that there are probably more demons than angels in this thing.

  • Art, I have no wish to disabuse you of your notions nor to spar further on this subject other than to reject your characterization of my drinking habits. I assure you that my objectivity has been long in development and whatever opinions I express are subject to revision when new facts justify an alteration. In this matter, however, such new light has yet to be provided.

  • G.W. Bush had a coalition of twice as many countries before going into iraq. The U.S. also waited almost a year and went through 16 UN resolutions and Saddam still would not let inspectors in. This “war” decision took one weekend.

  • To my mind, the overwhelming reason not to be sanguine about the outcome of the present US adventure in Libya, is that at least since 1991 all of its interventions in the Muslim world has resulted in the strenthening of the worst elements among the Muslims. This misadventure will prove no different. Saner voices (Diana West, Sultan Knish…) have already pointed that (Qu)(K)(G)addafi is at war with substantially the same elements who have been sending suicide bombers that target US forces in Iraq. The fate of the Iraqi Christians, and the inevitable return to power of the Pakistan backed Taliban has cured me of any lingering faith in the credibility of US intentions and abilities.

  • I would second the comment about the opposition being “islamists”. There is a recent report by a counter-terrorism center at Westpoint that found that the very region of libya that the revolution is based out of and which the US is supporting sent per capita more jihadists to iraq to fight american forces than any other country on earth. the overthrow of Gaddafi is likely just to be the opening of pandora’s box.

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