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Peace Ethics before and after an Attack on Iraq

"In peace ethics, a preventive attack on Iraq cannot be justified either according to the outmoded doctrine of just war or under the dubious ultima ratio of military force..On the foundation of the Charter of the UN, war is not an alternative of state action any more because of the general prohibition of force of Article 2..Earlier unquestioned convictions that only force helps against force are thrown into doubt after negative experiences.." From German
Peace Ethics Before and After an Attack on Iraq

On Just Peace

By Ulrich Frey

[This article originally published in: FriedensForum, September 2002 is translated from the German on the WWW,  http://www.friedenskooperative.de/ff/ff02/4-31.htm.]

US leadership is presently conditioning the world for an attack of the US on Iraq under the cruel dictator Saddam Hussein. Options for offensive plans are made public. Politicians campaign for support of US intentions. Material and financial resources are earmarked for an enormous war machine. In Europe, governments and politicians prepare for a seemingly unavoidable involvement.

President Bush justified "preventive strikes" of the US in a programmatic speech on June 2, 2002 before graduates of the US military academy West Point. He urged "being prepared at any time to strike at any dark corner of the world without delay. Our security demands all Americans to resolutely look forward and be prepared for preventive strikes whenever necessary to defend our freedom and our life." "The war against terrorism will not be won on the defensive. We must wage the battle on the soil of the enemy, frustrate their plans and confront the worst threats before they emerge."

In peace ethics, a preventive attack on Iraq cannot be justified either according to the antiquated doctrine of just war or under a dubious "ultima ratio" of military force. For reasons of space, this can only be stated without further explanation. There are presently no reasons justifying a "just war". A just cause (causa justa) is not clear. There is no legitimate or competent authority (legitima potestas), no just intention (recta intentio) or appropriate means (debitus modus).

Nevertheless the model of just war was cited by sixty US intellectuals in the "American Values" group.. Explicitly invoking the doctrine of just war, they supported the president in the case of bin Laden and wrote: "Organized killers with global reach now threaten all of us. In the name of universal human morality and fully conscious of the restrictions and requirements of a just war, we support our government's and our society's decision to use force of arms against them." (1)

The presuppositions of the use of military force according to the criteria of "ultima ratio" are not obvious. The EKD (Evangelical church in Germany) defined "ultima ratio" in 1994: "The use of military force is only possible as an ultima ratio (extreme possibility) and only to the absolutely necessary extent. The deployment of military weapons is only allowed for self-defense, emergency relief and protection of threatened persons, their life, their freedom and the self-determination of their community. Only the military potential of the adversary may be combated and destroyed. If military force is used for this goal, this intervention can only occur in the framework and according to the rules of the United Nations. Politics in protecting or restoring a legally constituted peace order has clearly identifiable goals of an intervention with realistic chances of success. Ending this intervention must be considered from the beginning.

In peace ethics, a war against Iraq would be a backward historical step after the strenuous constructive efforts since the catastrophe of the 2nd World War. (Perhaps this is already too far back) Incalculable political and economic consequences could be feared worldwide and in Europe as the aftermath of such a war against Iraq. Assessed in peace ethics, a war against Iraq would be a relapse to the free right of warfare (liberum jus ad bellum) of sovereign nation states against the Charter of the United Nations which declares in Art.2 paragraph 3: "All members should settle their international disputes through peaceful means so that world peace, international security and justice are not endangered."

Opposing the destructive whirlpool of such a policy is a public task of social groups and political institutions. Everyone should clearly oppose war intentions and initiate another policy. Protest alone is not enough, especially personalized protest against the person of the current president of the US. A normatively established alternative with graduated possibilities of political action is necessary. The perspective of peace ethics on a "just peace" no longer oriented in criteria of a "just war" must be presented.

A "doctrine of just peace" in breaking away from the doctrine of "just war" was first proclaimed by the Christian churches in east Germany (DDR) at the 1988 ecumenical assembly in Dresden. This model has gained a high degree of consensus with the support of both the German Bishops' conference (2) and the EKD. However it is still realized too little to guide public will and political conduct. The Iraq crisis underlines the necessity of reflecting on a "just peace", how it comes about and how it can be preserved. The following focal points are possible. While old and familiar, they prove bitterly necessary in concrete cases:

Both absolute pacifists and non-absolute pacifists could cooperate in the goal of convincing the public of the monstrousness of a war or unjustifiable force wherever they have influence. Differences in reasoning should optimize persuasiveness.

On the foundation of the Charter of the United Nations, war is not an alternative of state action any more because of the general prohibition of force of Article 2. (3) The UN does not have a monopoly of force corresponding to the prohibition of force. Therefore a supra-national monopoly of force regulated in international law setting limits to nation states is imperative. The prerequisites for a supra-national monopoly of force should be identified.

Epoch-making decisions on building structures for peaceful civilian conflict resolution are necessary for reducing force as a means of state foreign policy in favor of nonviolent political and social means. Methods and instruments oriented in violence - executed over centuries - still have the upper hand. We are at the beginning of this search but can already show the first successes. Earlier unquestioned convictions that only force helps against force are thrown into doubt after negative experiences in the Middle East and elsewhere. Democracy and human rights gain increasing institutional importance in international cooperation (keyword: good governance) as standards and means of positive sanctions.

Worldwide justice for assuring foundations of life should be promoted. The UNDP's excellent goal is paraphrased with the term "human development". Human development is "a process that expands the elective possibilities of people." A long and healthy life and acquiring knowledge and access to resources for sustainable living standards are parts of this process. "Political, economic and social freedom for creative and productive activity and life in personal self-respect and under the protection of guaranteed human rights" are necessary. (4)

Because language transports themes and is a tool in political discussion, terms like war and terrorism presently confusing the public and used for deception must be clarified. War in the traditional understanding of international law is different from deregulated and privatized force. Terrorism should not be equated with war as the US administration does. Dubious thinking leads to violence where differentiated action would be appropriate.

The understanding of security was considerably expanded in the new strategic concept of NATO from April 1999: "Articles 5 and 6 of the treaty can be applied by Washington in the case of an armed attack on the territory of an alliance partner from whatever direction. However the security alliance must also consider the global context. Security interests of the alliance can be affected by other risks including acts of terrorism, sabotage, organized crime and interruption of the supply of vital resources. The uncontrolled movement of a large number of people, particularly as a consequence of armed conflicts, can also raise problems for the security and stability of the alliance" (paragraph 24). The sensational US demand for support of preventive wars shows the danger of this expansive understanding of security. The red-green definition of security "Crisis prevention and Conflict resolution", April 7, 2000 deserves attention. Security includes political, economic, ecological and social stability. Its foundations are respect of human rights, social justice, rule of law, participatory decision-making, preservation of natural resources, chances of development in all world regions and the use of peaceful conflict resolution mechanisms."

Since justice and peace always depend on the guarantee of law, all national and international efforts for strengthening legal institutions should be supported. The functioning new International Criminal Court would be an example. This is a bright spot on the horizon for all humanity that given the unpunished injustice hopes for more justice.

For the case of a possible war against Iraq:

no support for gaining resources (oil) without legal title through military force,
no supply of soldiers or money,
no deployment of unmanned armored tanks,
no fly-over rights.

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