Pro Deo Et Patria- An Army Chaplain

I am a chaplain in the US Army, serving in Iraq. I'm keeping a blog to share my thoughts and experiences while deployed. They are my thoughts and they don't necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Army! :)

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Just War

Today was an interesting one in class.  The morning session was spent discussing the "Just War Tradition."  This tradition is the accumulation of teachings, beginning with Augustine in the 4th and 5th centuries, and carried through Acquinas, the Reformation and into our time, dealing with whether or not a war is just to enter into (Jus Ad Bellum) and whether or not a war is being waged justly (Jus In Bello). 

These are important questions for chaplains.  To some extent, it does not matter whether or not a war is being waged for just reasons.  At my level, as a battalion chaplain, no one is asking me!  We are called to follow orders, and trust that the government is waging war justly. a war is waged is in the hands of the military.  A chaplain can be a resource- no, is SUPPOSED to be a resource- to the commander, helping him or her to wage war justly (Jus In Bello).  For example, waging war justly means using proportional force.  Using proportional force means you do not go for overkill.  It means you use force proportionate to the enemy you are seeking to subdue.  You want to use enough for to achieve victory, obviously.  But there can be too much force.  An example:  with the uprisings in Fallujah, a few months ago, we could have simply leveled the city.  That would have worked...we would have neutralized the threats and stopped the rebellion.  But we would over-reacted, and used way too much force.  We also would have killed innocent civilians, which is something else that is prohibited if we seek top wage war justly (principle of discrimination- you use discrimination in selected your targets).

Whether or not a war is just has great implications.  As I type, thousands of families are going to bed, missing a mom or dad....missing a spouse, who is deployed over in Iraq or Afghanistan.  They are suffering, but to know that you are suffering for a just cause brings some relief.  To know that your husband or wife is fighting for good reason helps.  But if you believe the war is unjust...well, that makes the deployment even more difficult.  Can you imagine having you only child, or your mom or dad killed in action, only to hear your fellow citizens condemn the work being done by our Army.

That is not to day we shouldn't question the wars on conflicts in which we fight.  But it is a reminder that we must honestly and carefully examine what we say and do, recognizing that so many are giving so much for a cause that they believe is right.


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