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Is the war against ISIL a “just war”?

Is the war against ISIL a “just war”?

Here is the full text of the speech in which President Obama outlines his plan “to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.”

“First, we will conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists. ….

Second, we will increase our support to forces fighting these terrorists on the ground. ….

“Third, we will continue to draw on our substantial counterterrorism capabilities to prevent ISIL attacks. ….

“Fourth, we will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians who have been displaced by this terrorist organization.”

The best brief summary of “just war” criteria, as conceived by St. Augustine of Hippo and developed by the Roman Catholic Church stipulates that for a war to be just, it must

*be waged as a matter of last resort

*be waged by a “legitimate authority”

*be waged to address a wrong

*be waged with a reasonable chance of success

*The violence used must be proportionate to the harm suffered

*Non-combatants must not be targeted .

Does the military action the United States is about to undertake qualify as “just” under this criteria? Is the criteria still useful?


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Dirk C. Reinken

The reports of ISIL atrocities I heard on NPR sounded so much like the early stages of Nazi assaults on Jews (not to invoke Godwin’s Law): video recordings, mass executions based on religious affiliation, and so forth. It makes me wonder if addressing, containing, and eliminating ISIL isn’t just, then is war absent an immediate threat to your own nation ever just? We may have created the environment for this to happen (and I don’t believe the Iraq war was just), but can we ethically wash our hands of it? My primary fear is that we’ll do just enough to say we are doing something and simply prolong the conflict. No answers have I.

John Miller

Thought “reasonable chance of success” should include the ability to distinguish friend from foe, and the the possibility that if you kill enough people and destroy enough stuff the wrong you sought to address will be resolved.

Neither of these seem to be met anywhere in the middle east.

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