Just prior to our entry in Iraq, I was living as a guest resident in a seminary in Washington, DC, attending law school down the road at CUA.  One of my fellow student guests was English, studying theology at the John Paul II Institute.  We struck up a conversation about the pending war.

He said that, were we to go to war now, it would not be just as it was not defensive, and did not meet the standards of Jus ad Bellum. 

I suggested, and I continue to suggest, that, since the Shoah, there is desperate need to reexamine the requirements for Jus ad Bellum.  The Thomistic idea of “defensive war” supposes two things.  First, that both combatants are Christian.  Second, that neither combatant has the capacity to  attack the enemy in any other manner other than hand to hand, or, at least, within line of sight. 

In this case, both presuppositions are out the window.  The absence of the first presupposition was the justification for making preemptive wars of conquest on pagans.  But, since we are not out to convert Iraq, we can’t just rest on their being a Muslim state. 

No, the second presupposition is the key to the reexamination of Jus in Bello in the present case.  Can we only fight wars defensively where there is a immediate danger to the physical boundaries of the United States?  That would mean that we could only fight armies invading from the sea or moving through Canada or Mexico.  If this is the case, we had no business in Europe between 1942 and 1945. 

The reexamination of the conditions for Jus ad Bellum must conclude that, in the modern world, where undeveloped nations can wage interminable war for no good reason on each other, and, in the case of Germany or Iraq, on their own populace, strong nations who can end the human suffering of war by waging terminable war have the moral obligation to do so. 

Anyone who wants to call me Uncatholic for supposing that Thomas needs an update is free to do so.  But the man who calls me such is wrong.  I am Catholic, I compassionate my less fortunate brothers.  And I am sure that, had there been such a thing as world travel in the 14th century, the scholastics would agree.

For those who point to an underdeveloped (straight Thomistic) Jus ad Bellum as a reason for not supporting the war of liberation in Iraq, I propose that you have little interest in Jus ad Bellum or its standard application.  Why?  Because I doubt you would suggest that the war with Germany in the ’40’s was not just.  Yet it does not fit the strict criteria of the Jus ad Bellum as proposed by St. Thomas.  You can’t use moral theology to condemn only the wars you don’t like, the unpopular wars, and give a pass to the ones everyone thinks is a good idea.

I would like to meet an intellectually honest person who would say “Sure, Will, I don’t think we did right in World War II.  Sure, Japan was fair game, they attacked us first.  But we should have let Germany destroy Europe, finish off the Jews, kill half the English, roll through Ireland, Greenland, and Canada, and then declared war on them when they became an immediate threat.” 

Now, you might ask, “When was Iraq ever a proximate threat to us?”  Well, they were a pretty proximate threat to the Kurds, Saudis, and Israelis, but leaving aside genocide, making war upon its own civilian populace, and violating every sanction and rule meant to keep it in its cage, Iraq did pose a threat to stability in the region of the world where, like it or not, God put most of the petroleum.

“Will, are you saying that we should fight a war for oil?!?!?”


The worst day of your life, worse than any other day any American has gone through since the Civil War, will be the day after oil stops coming in from the Middle East, due to some massive blow up (literal or figurative.)

I don’t care if you are the biggest hippie who ever lived.  I don’t care if you are an avowed Christian Democrat, Distributivist, or Rugged Individualist.  The “Modern” and “Civil” parts of “Modern Civilization” run on energy.  And the day after we can’t make any more is the day the Western world falls into abysmal chaos.  No kidding. 

We don’t think about it anymore, but we rely on energy in such a way as, when we can’t get it, we shut down.  Right now I am typing this out on a plastic keyboard (plastic is an oil byproduct) on a computer that is powered by electricity that is coming through the lines because someone is putting coal on fire to heat water to produce steam to turn a turbine, and that guy and that coal all got to the power plant today via conveyance powered by petroleum, because someone was considerate enough to transport gasoline to a filling station in a tanker that moved because of petroleum, which was made a refinery where oil was conveyed, most likely from overseas, on ships powered by petroleum, that foreign oil comes out of a hole in the ground, probably drilled by someone foreign to that country, and it moves from hole to conveyance to refinery because SADDAM HUSSEIN (or some other nut job) allows it?!?!? So, my light, power, transportation, plastics, etc., depend on whether or not Saddam feels generous from one day to the next? 

But it won’t be just me in the dark if we don’t get oil.  It will be the whole Western World.  And as nice as we are, 24 hours of no power will reduce us to a riotous, murderous cinder.  Millions will die.  Governments will fall.  If you think I’m exagerating, just look at what happens to cities during summertime blackouts.  Imagine a society that was without power, and a government unable to communicate with them because no one has electricity.  No police cars to respond to 911 calls (not that 911 would work, either,) no fire trucks to put out fires, and about 300 million Americans scared to death.

That is, my friends, the definition of unstable.  And if a nation can remove a cruel, unstable, murderous dictator, in the interest of saving not only the lives of Kurdish tribesmen, but also prolonging its own stability until such time as we are relieved of our dependence on their main export, then I say it is meet and right so to do, and I challenge anyone to prove me wrong.

(written late a night, when I woke up and couldn’t fall back to sleep.)