Monday, September 9, 2013

A war without any purpose can never be a just war


First Things editor R.R. Reno is firmly opposed to U.S. intervention in Syria. Like most serious thinkers of the "just war" persuasion, he finds no morally justifiable case for lobbing a few cruise missiles just to make a point.
Symbolic killing? Purposeless killing? It’s morally repulsive to me that we should launch cruise missiles simply to put an exclamation point on a national stance or posture. “We believe in international norms!” “We’re still powerful and relevant and don’t make me do something you’ll regret, buddy!” These seem like caricatures, but have our public officials offered a rationale for attacking Syrian government forces that amount to something more substantive?

I’m not a pacifist, far from it. There are times when military force should be used, and now may be one of those times. But a just occasion does not automatically a just war make. One of the principles of just war-making is probability of success. Another is proportional use of force. Still another is last resort. These principles require clarity about the strategic goal of going to war. Success in achieving what? Proportional to achieving what? Last resort for achieving what? The Obama administration’s explanations of our need to bomb Syria make it impossible for me to formulate these questions in anything like a precise way, much less answer them. When do we know our credibility has been successfully preserved?

Reasonable people can disagree about when wars are just. Probability of success, proportionality, and last resort are judgment calls. But I certainly can’t endorse warfare under our present circumstances, and I would vote against it were I a congressman. No war can be just when we can’t even apply just war principles.

The Syrian non-crisis over proposed non-intervening intervention has seemed to me almost entirely superficial and theatrical. A tweet by David Axelrod—“Congress is now the dog that caught the car”—epitomizes how so many think of this moments in terms political gamesmanship rather than geopolitical significance. No doubt they do so because that’s how so many politicians and analysts are in fact thinking about it. To bomb or not to bomb? It’s not really about Syria, where people who don’t matter to us are killing and being killed, but rather about angling for electoral advantage in 2014 and 2016.
Reno is, of course, precisely correct on all points.

Add to this the continued pleas of Syria's long-suffering Christian community. . .
Al-Qaeda-linked rebels have attacked a Christian village of Ma’lula in Syria, home to one of the world’s oldest monasteries, the last one village in the world where still the Aramaic is spoken.

The Syrian Army has secured much of the township, but residents say radical opposition fighters, and terrorist Al-Qaeda mercenaries, have seized nearby hills, and their snipers are still firing indiscriminately at the community.

These are the rebels supported by the Obama Administration, and the likely users of chemical weapons on hundreds of innocent people, in an attempt to drag the United States into the conflict.

Please continue to pray that Washington will not make things worse by bombing Syria, and supporting radical Islamists in their attempt to turn Syria into another Islamic State. The very future of Christianity in the Middle East is threatened with extinction.

Love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon
. . . and you are left with a most intolerable scenario. A war without any purpose can never be a just war. In fact, intervening in Syria for no other reason than gaining some short-term political advantage for the incumbent administration is every bit as morally repugnant as the Assad regime's alleged chemical attack (still disputed by reputable sources) which is supposedly provoking U.S. action.