Syria and Just War

Napp Nazworth, a reporter at the Christian Post, asks a question that’s on lots of minds right now: Would intervention in Syria be a Just War? I was one of the folks he asked. For what it’s worth, here’s what I told him:

“Traditionally, Just War theory included punishment for wrongdoing as a legitimate casus belli. It is clear that the Obama administration sees military action in Syria as punitive. As President Obama said in the Rose Garden, ‘If we won’t enforce accountability in the face of this heinous act, what does it say about our resolve to stand up to others who flout fundamental international rules? To governments who would choose to build nuclear arms? To terrorist who would spread biological weapons? To armies who carry out genocide?’ Those are legitimate questions.

“But the President has proposed a response that seems designed to accomplish as little as possible: a ‘limited, narrow act,’ that involves no boots-on-the-ground, does not target Syrian chemical weapons capacity, is not intended to tip the balance of the civil war, and is not directed toward regime change. One fundamental criterion for a Just War is that there must be a serious prospect of success. It is hard to see how the administration’s proposed actions will accomplish what they are intended to accomplish. It is hard to imagine what ‘success’ even looks like.

“Just War theory was developed, in part, to avoid the trap of consequentialism – the pernicious idea that the ends justify any and all means. The President and his administration appear willing to employ lethal means even if those means aren’t likely to accomplish any discernible end.”

I hope to offer some more thoughts on this pressing matter, soon. In the meantime, pray for those who must make these terrible decisions, especially President Obama. Pray for peace. And above all, pray for the Syrian people.


Categories:Catholic Social Teaching Politics Theology

  • therain

    This administration has lied about almost everything it is involved with. The Catholic Church failed us in the last election,, and this is what we have to live with now.

    Why should we believe anything this president says?

  • Marlin

    You didn’t write the same thing in regards to Rick Santorum’s support for the Iraq War (given that pre-emptive war is explicitly disqualified as a just war). At no point did you talk about the probability of success in his support for the Iraq War. Given that many, many people questioned the war’s ultimate aims and end game, you seem to be creating a new standard for President Obama to follow.

    • MJM

      Apples and oranges. The Theory of Just War wasn’t developed by Stephen White. It is what it is and regardless of who Stephen backs or supports has nothing at all to do with the issue. It is unjust in the fact that there is no “end” other than 90 days – which we all know is arbitrary and will change.



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