The war in Afghanistan has started many debates of whether it is right or wrong to invade a poor and small state with the goal to prevent terrorism. Since the war is still on progress and the rate of casualties is increasing dramatically, questions have been raised concerning political and philosophical interests. Is the war in Afghanistan just according to the just war theory? What would a pacifist and a utilitarian argue for this issue?
“On September 11 2001, America felt its vulnerability even to threats that gather on the other side of the Earth. We resolved then, and we are resolved today, to confront every threat from any source that could bring sudden terror and suffering to America.” – George W. Bush
After the devastating attack against the world trade center which left approximately 3000 American victims killed and a world with fear which resulted in increased foreign security and a war. October the 7th of 2001, the day when USA pledged the war against terrorism was the day that would put the Afghan people in a lot of stress. In only 9 years, over 48 thousand injuries were caused and nearly 19000 people, soldiers and citizens alike, had died. Both political and philosophical questions have been raised concerning this matter. According to the just war doctrines in order for a war to be just it has to have a just cause, legitimate authority, right attention, a high probability of success and proportionality.
“All America needs for its own security interests is that Afghanistan not become a haven for terrorists the way it did under the Taliban.” Ted Galen Carpenter
U.S has been involved in Afghanistan since 1979 during the cold war when the Soviet Union invaded the country in order to spread communism and fight Islamic extremists. However U.S responded with supplying weapons and money to anti-soviet forces which are today known as the Taliban. After 10 years, soviet was forced to withdraw its troops leaving the anti-soviet movement controlling Afghanistan. After a civil war, the religious movement which was called the Taliban, increased its influence and gained power.
The current war in Afghanistan began after 9/11, when two airplanes crashed into the world trade center; this murderous plan was carried out by a non state actor, Al-Qaeda. Two days before 9/11, Ahmed Shah Massood who was the leader of the afghan resistance movement against the Taliban was killed by two Taliban whom were disguised as journalists, which created anger upon the Afghans and resulted with war against the Taliban. Some argue that this was not a coincidence, the death of the leader and the attack on the world trade center’s occurred almost at the same time frame. Some think that it was the Afghans that were behind the plan to attack the twin towers in order to gain support from the US to fight the war and regain what they lost during the civil war. USA responded with war for the goal to protect its citizens and prevent this from happening again. 9 years have gone since U.S troop’s first step their foot in afghan soil and the war today is seen as more deadly and worse than ever. The main objective of American troops was to take down the Taliban regime, which provided protection and a safe place for al-Qaeda. In other words, Afghanistan was working as upkeep for terrorists, it took less than three months for the U.S troops to defeat the Taliban yet today they struggle to fight off the Taliban forces that are spread around Afghanistan. There are many various perspectives on this war; the perspective of the afghan people from the start of the war was that they “were very hopeful in the beginning when the international force and international community came there. They were hoping that they would help us rebuild our country and they will help us rebuild our state. And they would help us stand on our own feet” Dr. SHARIFI, but today the perception have changed since the afghan peoples hopes are still not fulfilled, the promises that the foreign forces were just as thin air. In fact today the middle eastern view of the situation in Afghanistan and the war on terror believe that “the vast majority of the Muslims believe that president Bush’s campaign against terrorism has in fact increased the threat of terrorism and extremism very significantly after 9/11” Gunaratna. The American perspectives of the war, from its start were to prevent terrorism to prevail and infect the world by end the vicious Taliban regime which was supporting terrorists, but today the approach and perspective to the war have been changed dramatically as more and more people believe that this war is just waste of money and innocent lives, a war that we cannot win. However can we say that Afghanistan was a just war?
Justice is “judgment involved in the determination of rights and assignment of rewards and punishments” The ethics of war states that war is bad and we have to avoid it since it causes deaths and injuries and abuses human rights. For what cause is a war just? In order for a war to be just, it has to follow some criteria of the just war theory.
The just war theory asses if it is just to go to war, and how the attacking forces should be used and not used. It was broadly used by Christian philosophers, it was a guideline of how a war should be right, in a conflict situation. The theory makes people think that it says that war is good, but in fact it says that war is bad, and is wrong but is less evil and can be used in order to destroy the greater evil. For the Afghanistan war to be just, it needed to be for a just cause, need a legitimate authority, a high probability of success, the war needed to be a last resort and proportionality. The reason why the Afghanistan war is hard to classify as just, is since most of the military means were artillery, airstrikes which killed huge amount of civilians, therefore this cause conflicts with the theory as the just war theory states that the pledged war needs to protect and not harm non actors in the war. However was the original invasion of Afghanistan war just according to the just war theory?
A) Just cause:
A just cause would be for the reason to defend from a threat that is aggressive, which results in punishments for the brutal foes act of violating someone/a nations basic rights. The reason why U.S pledged war against Afghanistan was to defend the citizens from the attacks on the twin towers to occur again, which was seen as just not only by America but other countries too. So in other words the war had huge global support which fulfills the criteria of a just cause.
B) Legitimate authority:
This criteria means that only a authority that is legitimate can pledge war, in other words the authority must be recognized. For example the mafia have power but they aren’t legitimate therefore they cannot pledge war. Since the war in Afghanistan was seen as a legal war and accepted by the United Nations, it fulfills this criterion.
C) Probability of success
For a war to be just, it have to be a war that can be won. In other words, that the American troops cannot succeed with their own military means, which decreases the probability of success, however there was reasonable probability of success since the U.S military power is strong enough to eliminate its opponent. The probability of success even increased through soft power by giving security, basic needs and use propaganda in order to gain support from the afghan people against terrorism.
D) Last resort:
In order for a state to fulfill this criteria, it has to have no other reasonable means to influence the threat before starting war with military means. There was no way for U.S to talk out the Taliban regime for supporting terrorism.
For this criteria to be achieved, the means of the war needs to have limited force in order to fulfill its goals. In other words, the mean of the war was military mean, and the goal to stop terrorism by removing the Taliban regime without killing any civilians. Limited force in this criteria means that non actors of the war should be protected and never be targeted. This criterion is complicated to apply in the afghan war, since there are lots of coalitions in the war. However the proportionality that this war goal was also to protect the women in Afghanistan since they lived in harsh patriarchy rule, by giving them liberation the proportionality criteria would be achieved.
Today the war in Afghanistan may be seen as unjust from different perspectives, two of these philosophical ethic perspectives will be assed;
Pacifism stands for “the doctrine that all violence is unjustifiable.” Most people that stand for pacifism are mainly because of religious or non religious people that value life as sacred, or believe that war is ineffective and wasteful. There are different types of pacifism, however all of them believe that war and violence is unjustifiable and that these conflicts should be handled with care in a peaceful way. An absolute pacifist believes that war is wrong, and should not be considered even for self-defense, however this is just for the morals in war, in a personal level self-defense would be allowed, so in other words there is a difference between comparing the morality of a person’s actions to a national state. The view of war according to absolute pacifist is highly unethical, even though if a weak national state is invaded by a stronger one, according to this view no violence should be used to rescue the weak state this is because they believe that violence leads to more hurt than non violent actions. In contrast conditional pacifists are in principle against war; however if the war is an alternative that is necessary and less damaging than the peaceful alternative then it is seen as acceptable. In other words there have to be a good consequence coming out from the war for it to be good, and these principles are similar to the utilitarian point of view in the morals of war.
How would a pacifist respond to Afghanistan as a just war? An absolute pacifist would argue that no matter what principles, criteria or international rights this war has, starting a war is not an option and should never be an option. And this is a problem, since most people would find this as treason. “Either you are with us or against us”, and an absolute pacifist view is more close to the “against us” part. “Pacifism is objectively pro-Fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side you automatically help out that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, ‘he that is not with me is against me.”George Orwell. However to think like this would be immoral, since we live in a free world and we should not discourage other people’s views on different approaches, we should respect them instead. In contrast to absolute pacifist, conditional pacifist would see this war as self defense. Since the just war theory is the right way to pledge war against a country, and the criteria in the just war theory goes in hand with what a conditional pacifist believes in; a less damaging and a bigger chance of a good consequence out from the war than bad.
“Utilitarianism is the idea that the moral worth of an action is determined solely by its utility in providing happiness or pleasure as summed among all sentient beings” This philosophical theory simply states that the decisions should be based on what is right or wrong and what promotes most happiness for those whom will be affected. So for a utilitarian to take a stance in if war is right or bad depends on what situation it is, one example is World War 2. If there were no war against Germany, then the consequence would be bad as Hitler’s regime will oppress a vast majority of people and increase suffering and reduce happiness. Therefore engaging in a war, would be the right thing to do since it brings more happiness to the people and might reduce eventually suffering in the longer term. There are two different approaches in utilitarian, negative and positive. Negative utilitarian believes that we should reduce suffering more than focusing on increasing happiness; positive thinks the opposite that we should increase happiness and with that suffering will reduce. So how would a utilitarian argue about the original war in Afghanistan? The facts that are given, a utilitarian would believe that Afghanistan war is the right thing to do. The consequences of letting a country work as upkeep for terrorists would create potential threats in the future for other countries. So by preserving and isolating the country from spreading terrorism we will save other lives in other countries. Also since Afghanistan was controlled by Taliban regime, the country is very poor, unstable and have a corrupt government, by waging war against the Taliban regime these factors could be reduced and give the population a better life standard and help them in the long term.
How would a utilitarian respond to Afghanistan as a just war? Since the criteria of the just war theory follows a purpose of right war with a good outcome and a consequence that will benefit the majority of the people, the utilitarian view would see the war as just. Removing the Taliban power, will enable more people to live in freedom instead of oppression, and by isolating the spread of terrorism from Afghanistan will protect the outside world which in will increase the happiness of the people since they feel safe.
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