Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Just War?

There are many today who question the concept of the Just War, and some who dismiss it altogether. In theology circles sometimes the subject will come up and people will wonder if it is possible to have a Just War now given the advances we have made in technology and international relations. And then there are pacifists who say war is never just and never right and should never be contemplated. I often wonder what the solution to situations like Nazi invasions is then: do we just sit back and allow ourselves be invaded and killed? Do we allow innocent people be killed?  I have never heard a pacifist give a convincing answer to those questions, some of them seem very idealistic and think every problem can be solved by dialogue and cooperation and the elimination of social equality. 

Lest I seem anti-pacifist, I'm not, the above solution is the actually best in many if not most situations. Jumping on the tank all guns blazing should never be the first response to a crisis, nor any response. However there are times when the good and moral have no choice but to engage in conflict for the greater good. Making such a decision is agonizing (or at least it should be) and must be the fruit of much deliberation, discernment and prayer, and must be subject to law, reason, prudence and proportionality.

We are now in a situation where we may well need to consider if it is time for a Just War. This is the issue the editorial team at The Catholic Herald is considering today, and it has come to the conclusion that humanitarian aid and the US's limited airstrikes are not enough. The IS group is still making inroads in Iraq and Syria and its members are literally butchering the defenceless people they meet as they wage their campaign to establish a new empire for Islam. Perhaps many are not aware of what is actually happening on the ground. The media has concentrated on the plight of the Yazidis and mostly ignored the massacre of Christians. Initially claiming that tens of thousands of Yazidis were running in fear of their lives, they have now realised, as indicated at the start, there are about 4,000-5,000 Yazidis. There are, however, tens of thousands of Christians who are also running in fear of their lives, and a large number, perhaps well over a couple of thousand if not more, have already been executed by IS for refusing to convert to Islam - children among them. How do we respond to this? Or do we respond at all?

"Am I my brother's keeper", Cain asked God after he had killed his brother Abel and hid the body. Do we have a responsibility for our fellow men and women?  As we know we have the right, indeed the duty, to defend ourselves, do we also have the duty to defend others, particularly those who cannot defend themselves? And do we have the duty to defend the defenceless even if it means we may well end up losing our own lives? President Barack Obama has stated that he will not send US troops into Iraq - not one American soldier will die in this conflict.  Fair enough, he wants to protect his citizens, but how far do you go to do that? Does one close ones borders and let hell reign over the earth and let the innocent be massacred while all are tucked up safe in bed at home? Are we our brothers and sisters' keepers? I think today's feast may have the answer to that: St Maximilian went to the defence of a defenceless man knowing that it would cost him his life. The Jews have a saying from their writings: "To save one life is to save the world entire", and Jesus our Saviour says, "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for a friend".

So what do we do now? The US has said it will do no more; the EU has its head stuck in the sand; the Arab League will not fight against its own. The UN might pass a resolution or two in the safety of New York or Geneva. Is there a case for a Just War, and if so, who goes? What are the dangers? Will action end up in a global war were militant Muslims perceive an attack against Islam and rally the troops all over the world to fight? Such questions need to be considered. Some fearing such a conflict may well prefer to allow the Christians of the Middle East, and other non-Muslim minorities, perish rather than continence what could be World War III. After all, they are over there, why bring it over here if we can keep it there? But can we be so sure that it will stay there?  And can we stand by and let innocent men, women and children be slaughtered? Hard questions have to be asked, action is necessary, but when is the "international community" (if it still exists) going to do something?

As we are pondering all this, breaking news: IS has released its projections for the next five years.

1 comment:

  1. The west is asleep. It is only when ISIS has attacked a European city that people will sit up and realize things are not good. Europeans think they are safe because Iraq is so far away, and they expect people in the Middle East to be killing one another. This is an old attitude. When Pope St Pius V called on the rulers of Europe to join the Holy League against the invading Turks most of them ignored him, and it was a small group of realists who fought and won the Battle of Lepanto. And even after the victory the European leaders yawned. They are still yawning, and will be up to the day the knife is drawn across their throats,