By David Swanson, September 21, 2017, Lets Try Democracy.
Opening debate remarks at the University of Pennsylvania on
September 21, 2017, on the following proposition: Are Americas wars
in Syria and Afghanistan just and necessary or have we lost our way
in the use of military force, including drone weaponry, in
conducting US foreign policy?
Wow, Ive already gotten more applause than Trump
got for his whole speech at the UN.
U.S. wars and bombings in Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq,
Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and the Philippines, and threats to North
Korea are unjust, unnecessary, immoral, illegal, extremely costly
in several ways, and counterproductive on their own terms.
The idea of a just war comes down to us over some 1600 years
from people whose worldview we share in almost no other way. Just
war criteria come in three types: non-empirical, impossible, and
The Non-Empirical Criteria: A just war is supposed to have the
right intention, a just cause, and proportionality. But these are
devices of rhetoric. When your government says bombing a building
where ISIS stashes money justifies killing up to 50 people, theres
no agreed upon, empirical means to reply No, only 49, or only 6, or
up to 4,097 people can be justly killed. Identifying a governments
intention is far from simple, and attaching a just cause like
ending slavery to a war doesnt make that cause inherent to that
war. Slavery can be ended in many ways, while no war has ever been
fought for a single reason. If Myanmar had more oil wed be hearing
about genocide prevention as a just cause for invading, and no
doubt worsening, the crisis.
The Impossible Criteria: A just war is supposed to be a last
resort, have a reasonable prospect of success, keep noncombatants
immune from attack, respect enemy soldiers as human beings, and
treat prisoners of war as noncombatants. None of these things are
even possible. To call something a last resort is in reality merely
to claim it is the best idea you have, not the only idea
you have. There are always other ideas that anyone can think of.
Every time we urgently need to bomb Iran or were all going t...