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Justification of Wars in the Twenty-First Century: Can Wars Be Just in the Twenty-First Century?

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Justification of Wars in the Twenty-First Century: Can Wars Be Just in the Twenty-first Century?

Kadyrova A.

American University of Central Asia

May 20, 2018

The twenty-first century began with terrifying terrorist attack on September 9, 2001. The world changed its view on the idea of international threat and terror, as it caused a chain reaction of future conflicts because the new term evolved, which was terrorism. Since the beginning of twenty-first century, there was almost no wars that did not include this new term. Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, and many other states suffered from the consequences of terrorism. The reason why the term terrorism is important in this essay is because in many armed conflicts in twenty-first century, the fight against terrorism was used as a justification for foreign interventions. The goal is to analyze the theoretical approach to the ideas of just and unjust wars and to make critical analysis of the events that took place in twenty-first century, where it is vital to find the justification, if there is any, in order to see whether why states hate each other. If there is justification of the invasion, then can that war be just? Or is it just only for one side? It is crucial to see the different perspectives on war such as realism, militarism, or even pacifism. All of them propose different approaches to wars. Wars can be just if they have legitimate reason and legal authority alongside international support. The twentieth century was a century of the two world wars, and since the Second World War, there was no bloodier wars. However, the twenty-first century is the century of proxy wars caused by self-interests of states over geopolitical issues. Therefore, just wars are the wars where the nature of war does not lie in the expansion of the territory of the winning state and there is a legitimacy in action, but rather in avoiding the bigger war following the international conventions on wars. However, in the twenty-first century, wars are becoming less just, as concepts like fight with terrorism are used for justification. Thus, the twenty-first century is the time of unjust wars caused by geopolitics where “justice” is not seen as primary goal.                                                         

Theoretical background

        Zuo Gaoshan in his Just war and justice of war: Reflections on ethics of war reflects on three main aspects that have to be considered while justifying any type of war. His statements and proposals are based on Just War theory, where he focuses on three different ethics: right ethics, action ethics, and duty ethics. Therefore, it is crucial to consider these three ethics while making the analysis of war in order to understand whether or not it is a just war. According to Gaoshan, “just war must at least include six factors: legitimate reason (also known as "just reason"), legal authority, legitimate purpose, chance of success, proportionality, and last resort.” (Gaoshan, 2007, p. 281). However, his paper is focused on only two of them: legitimate reason and legal authority. Based on what Gaoshan (2007) claims there are two legitimate reasons to start a war, which are self-defense and self-preservation (p.282). Having these two reasons, it is possible to make a little analysis of the conflicts that took place in the twenty-first century. However, it is also crucial to point that these two reasons are more likely to be considered as theoretical because in reality almost any state can claim that it started the war for self-preservation and the reason was terrorist threat. Therefore, it is very important to avoid classification or justification of war based only on these two because the answer will be doubted. The example could be the case of Saddam Hussein, where the USA launched a war against Iraq, as it believed that Hussein had connections to Al-Qaeda; that Iraq had a weapon of mass destruction, which was a global threat. The USA used self-defense and self-preservation as the justifications of war it had launched against Iraq. However, it is vital to mention that there is still no efficient evidence of connection between Hussein and Al-Qaeda, and weapon of mass destruction was not found in Iraq (Gaoshan, 2007, p.283). Moreover, when we talk about legitimate reason, the war against Iraq was launched with no United Nation Security Council authorization, which leads us to the fact that sometime legitimate reason is not the sufficient one, as there still has to be a legal authority (Gaoshan, 2007, p.283).                                                 Legal authorization means that private entities have no rights to declare a war, and there should be the legal authorities only, who have this power (Gaoshan, 2007, p.283). For instance, the legal authorities such as heads of governments and presidents are the only ones that have rights to start a war. However, there are two legal factors, such as internal decision-making procedures and the external one, which is the United Nations. As for the internal ones, it is always important to consider the main factors of war launching, such as self-defense, and it is important to give this power to leaders of the states because they can be held responsible. On the other hand, the two World Wars in twentieth century caused the international community to set a list of regulations regarding warfare policy, where there are very strict regulations and the states that are in war must follow those regulations. Legal authorization is important, as it helps to distinguish between just and unjust wars. The USA war against Iraq is still cannot be considered as just, as there was no legal authorization from the United Nation Security Council. Therefore, legal authorization is vital when it comes to war, as it is the only way to find whether or not the war was just.                                                                                                         The two other aspects that are proposed by Gaoshan are action ethics and duty ethics. The first one is mainly focused on the action of war itself during the wartime. It suggests that those parties in war have to follow certain rules and restrictions, as this is very important for the further justifications. For instance, Gaushan states that soldiers in war have to think about their actions as this is the only time when “guidelines are most needed, because the burden of consequences and impact is the greatest.” (Gaoshan, 2007, p.285). Therefore, those guidelines are needed; moreover, most of those guidelines and restrictions are written by the responsible body of the UN, such as Security Council, and what is important here is the fact that if those guidelines are not followed war is unjust and the party that used force unjustly will be punished by legal authority, i.e. sanctions and other tools of pressure will be used against it. The duty ethics are basically focused on the post-war period, where it is crucial to understand that the only responsible body for the war is the state and its leader, and “winner must take responsibility for the future decided by the aftereffects of the war” (Gaoshan, 2007, p.289). Therefore, these three main principles are used in this essay in order to find justifications of the wars in the twenty-first century, as it is important to mention that all this three war-related ethics cannot be separated, as if these are followed the war can be just.

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