A moral moment missed?

Author:White, Craig
Position:Correspondence - Letter to the Editor

Richard John Neuhaus' "Internationalisms" (Public Square, December 2004) fails to discuss the current war in terms of just war theory, which include just cause, right intention, competent authority, reasonable chance of success, proportionality of ends, and last resort. For example, in the essay's section on "defining success," Father Neuhaus writes, "Finally, success will be if, three or thirty years from now, Afghanistan and Iraq have reasonably decent and stable governments, operating under something believably like the rule of law.... " This lacks the specificity to qualify as a serious application of just war theory. If we don't know if it will take three or thirty years, of what value is the criterion of "reasonable chance of success"? (I wonder in passing what the Pentagon chiefs would say to a planner who said an invasion would take "three to thirty years" to succeed.) And if we face, as perhaps we do, thirty years of counterinsurgency, what would this say about the criterion of "proportionality of ends"?

I do not believe the erudite Fr. Neuhaus meant his essay to be a serious, detailed application of just war theory to our current circumstances. Yet in the midst of what he acknowledges will be "a very long struggle," doesn't FIRST THINGS...

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