SharksWithLasers -- Seth Cooper

A CUTTING-EDGE BLOG FOR THE WORLD OF THE 21st CENTURY, Currently operated by Seth L. Cooper, a 27 year-old attorney in Seattle (sethlcooper at comcast dot net)

Friday, January 28, 2005

JUST SOME THOUGHTS ON JUST WAR. Covert Advisor mentions my post from yesterday concerning the application of Hadley Arkes’ take on the doctrine of nonintervention to the current war in Iraq. CA’s post provides plenty of good resources concerning just war theory—to which I would add Kenneth Anderson’s Law of War and Just War Theory Blog.

CA closes with some questions about whether just war theory works as an explanation of the world in which we live and in assessing military action and then presents the following two perspectives:
Ultimately, some might consider this medieval casuistry a doomed attempt to impose order on a shifting, living dune. Yet for others it is nothing less than discerning the moral order inherent in the universe, and living by it, even in the midst of slaughter.

I am a subscriber to the latter viewpoint, as just war theory impresses me. Recently, I had the chance to read Jean Bethke Elshtain’s Just War Against Terror: The Burden of American Power in a Violent World. It was an enjoyable book that I hope to go through again soon and write a review for Amazon.

I was particularly struck by how Elshtain was very much a realist in her discussion. No, she’s not a proponent of the crass, amoral, realpolitik sort of realism of international relations. Rather, she recognizes the reality of radical Islamism and its fundamental conflict with Western Civilization and the concepts of constitutional government and the separation of church and state. Importantly, Elshtain INSISTS on getting the FACTS right. Radical terrorist thugs who fly planes into buildings because they hate America and commit such acts in the name of their radical religious views must be recognized as ideologically-driven terrorists who have made a conscious decision to do all that they can to destroy us.

This is all blaringly obvious to most people, but as Elshtain points out, all sorts of so-called academics have spilled a great deal of ink about how we need to get to “root causes” and find out what the West could have done to make them act this way. As Elshtain rightly points out, those misguided academics fail to take the terrorists seriously as moral agents and fail to face up to the dangers they pose. If a nation of people is not calling the terrorists for what they are but instead describe them as mere victims, then that nation is getting the facts wrong. If a nation is not taking steps to defend against the threat a first priority, then that nation is not performing one of the most central tasks for which governments are constituted.

One interesting thing I noted in my reading of Elshtain’s book is the fact that she describes a presumption against the use of force in describing just war theory. I am not entirely sure one should invoke the term presumption. In fact, in a lecture given by George Weigel a couple of years ago (which I wrote about as a young law school lad here), Weigel specifically took issue with the view that just war theory involves a presumption against the use of force. I have a copy of Weigel’s article on just war theory in The Catholic Law Review and I give myself the assignment of going over that again, of reviewing Elshtain’s book, and thinking further on the matter. At this point, I am inclined to think that the use of force does require strong justifications, but that it would be too presumptuous in a world full of danger to impose a presumption against the use of violent force to stop injustices.

(Downtown Seattle, WA)

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