War on Iraq: Immoral and/or Unwise?

Most all Church leaders both here and as well as overseas, see little or no moral justification for the USA to launch an invasion of Iraq. This is not just a view held by Christian "pacifists". This includes almost all those who have a conscience formed in even the more permissive theory of a "just war" with its ethical demands, among others, that any such war must be purely defensive, and only begun as a last resort. It is for this reason that the administration is most concerned, as it should be, to prove that Saddam Hussein, despite his army having been devastated in the first Gulf war and his industrial strength destroyed by a decade of sanctions still presents an immanent threat.

On the other hand, there are those who feel without a UN mandate, a war launched by us and a couple of allies like Great Britain, although certainly winnable, would turn out to lead to a greater defeat in the War on Terrorism, and thus ultimately unwise. For this reason, our government should seem equally concerned to to make sure that any such action is seen to be truly a last resort, one which is only undertaken after the UN has done everything possible to negotiate or enforce compliance with its orders that Iraq give up its weapons of mass destruction.

The problem for the US is unless both conditions are fulfilled, that is, that not only the rest of the world be convinced that this truly is a war waged in just self-defense, but also that everything possible has been done through UN efforts that would make war unnecessary, we will end up with a war that no matter how quickly it is won, will be seen as morally reprehensible. An if that happens, we will likely end up finding ourselves as the constant target in the war on terrorism, for we will be seen as the international outlaw that most needs to be eliminated for the sake of the peace of the rest of the world.

Perhaps even worse, if any worse outcome could be imagined, would result if the US succeeds forcing the UN Security Council to go along with its war plans regardless of whether or not all other diplomatic means have been used. The Muslim world has little reason to trust the UN to be even-handed. It was, after all, created mostly by the USA and its European allies. It was the UN that carved up Palestine to make room for the state of Israel, and even after resolutions were passed to safeguard what rights the Palestinians were supposed to still have, the US has continued to support those who have continued to flaunt them. Why then should the USA be allowed to start a war just because Saddam Hussein, a sore loser if there ever was one, continues to drag his feet? So while we may be justified in demanding that the UN back up its resolutions with force, we will be seen as both hypocritical and as ultimately undermining the authority of the UN to solve any of the world's problems if we ignore the UN and invade Iraq.

It is for this double reason involving both the questionable morality of going to war under these circumstances, as well as the wisdom of doing so unless the rest of the world perceives our cause to be just, that we must be doubly cautious. For if we begin a war that the rest of the world sees as being unjust, then the consequences of such rashness will come back to haunt us to our dying day -- which could turn out to be much sooner than we think.

This is the dilemma faced by our leaders, indeed, by all of us who will be called upon to support them, as well as all of those who have sworn to take orders from them. For if a war or the orders of war are immoral to begin with, then they must be opposed or disobeyed.

R W Kropf 1/23/03 WARETHIC.doc 03-01-23.html