Another “Just War”, or Just “Another War”
“War is merely the continuation of [politics]
by other means.”
—Karl von Clausewitz, Prussian General
Within nations, citizens must obey laws. They must rely on the established judicial system to arrest, try and punish wrongdoers. This process helps assure that the law is evenly applied and that the punishment is consistent with the offense. Individual citizens are not sovereign. The protection of individual rights is the government’s duty. Individuals may not take the law into their own hands to avenge a wrong like vigilantes. Even when the use of force is justified, whether in law enforcement or individual self-defense, it must be proportionate to the wrong committed.
Most people agree that the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power and hope that Iraq will become a peaceful nation under its own rule. However, the U.S.’s good intentions and the positive outcome of bringing Hussein to justice cannot substitute for a legitimate global system of justice that would have arrested, tried, and punished him the first time he broke the law. The preemptive attack, based on the U.S.’s flawed intelligence and mistaken beliefs, cost the U.S. important credibility, domestically and internationally. What if the U.S. had launched a preemptive nuclear strike against Iraq?
“The Vietnam War required us to emphasize the national interest rather than abstract principles. What President Nixon and I tried to do was unnatural. And that is why we didn't make it.”
—Henry A. Kissinger
Whether or not one believes that preemptive war is legal or morally justified, compelling arguments can be made on both sides of the issue. However, one conclusion is indisputable. If there were a global governing body enforcing the rule of international law, rather than the present system of national sovereignty, an act of preemptive war would be unjustified. The use of force by nations could be rendered illegal, just as it is by its citizens within its borders. Global justice would protect the interests of individuals and nations.
Henry Kissinger, “On 10th anniversary of end of the Vietnam War,”
Wall Street Journal, March 11, 1985.