Furthermore, pacifists on the left and so-called "realists" on the right regard the doctrine with suspicion. Christian pacifism pointedly asks whether any principle that justifies violence, especially the conditions of modern warfare, could be consistent with any of the major sacred traditions, let alone the teachings of Jesus.
Just-war doctrine stubbornly holds the middle ground. It argues that lethal force may at times be morally necessary, but only while observing the strictest tests of moral constraint.It may be, however, that just war has become too malleable to be the moral center it has been. It has outlived its usefulness, and must be updated to address an entirely different set of historical and political realities like those we currently face in Iraq. A brief review:Just cause: For nearly two years, members of the Bush Administration have sought to rally support from the American people and our allies for an invasion of Iraq. We have been invited to believe that the principal objective of an invasion will be to disarm a dangerous tyrant; at other times that the chief aim is "regime change"--to oust Saddam Hussein and his government and rid the Middle East of a dangerous leader and rescue the Iraqi people. The United States and its allies could then establish a democratic state in its place that could be a showcase throughout the Arab world.At other times the president said attacking Iraq is necessary to protect American citizens from further terrorist attacks. (The strategy appears to be working. Though the administration disavows a direct connection between Hussein and the attacks of Sept. 11, The Nation's William Greider cite a recent survey indicating that 42 percent of Americans believe that Hussein was personally responsible for the events of Sept. 11-a truly Orwellian manipulation of public opinion). All of the goals cited above are worthy, and based on the definition of just cause. But every so often we glimpse less idealistic motives that cannot be justified under the traditional conditions of a just cause. There are, for example, the motives hinted at in the vision of the so-called "New American Century Project," which argued that the United States should establish hegemony as the only legitimate superpower. In this scenario, Iraq is but the first act of a larger drama, a demonstration project.A last resort: President Bush has repeatedly assured the American people and the world that the United States will attack Iraq only as a "last resort"--another device meant to place a war within a just-war framework. It's more accurate to say that the United States has been at war with Iraq since 1991. We've maintained "no-fly zones," bombed air-defense systems and levied economic sanctions that have severely deprived the country of resources, food, and medical supplies.The present campaign began with a belligerent case for aggressive action against Iraq, if necessary by unilateral action by the United States. It's not quite plausible to claim at this point that this war is a measure of last resort.