Arguing About War by Michael Walzer
Arguing About War by Michael Walzer

Arguing About War (2004)

Oct 13, 2004

Walzer rejects the argument that the invasion of Iraq was justified: "It is only massacre or ethnic cleansing or mass enslavement in progress that justifies marching an army into someone else's country. That is what humanitarian intervention is, and that is not what the Iraq war was."


JOANNE MYERS: Good morning. I'm Joanne Myers, Director of Merrill House Programs, and on behalf of the Carnegie Council I would like to welcome our members and guests to our Books for Breakfast program.

This morning our guest is Michael Walzer, who will be discussing his book, Arguing About War, and the book will be available for you to purchase at the end of the program today.

There have been very few times in the history of civilization when there hasn't been a war taking place somewhere. For Americans that somewhere is Iraq and that sometime is now. At a period when we as a nation are increasingly divided over ideas about war and over the proper use of our armed forces, just think how constructive it would be if we had a common language that could frame the conversation and advance the debate.

Towards that end it is indeed an honor to welcome Michael Walzer to our Books for Breakfast program this morning, for he is just the person who has the moral authority to clarify our thinking on this topic. Without a doubt, Professor Walzer has more influence than anyone else writing today about the morality and philosophy of war.

In arguing about war, our speaker has collected his recent essays that he has written about U.S. foreign policy and offers us a conceptual framework to critique war, whether discussing the present war in Iraq or recent conflicts. To guide us he sets down complex ethical principles that enable us to judge American conduct at home and abroad, and tries to explain the point at which a country is morally justified in resorting to military force.

Although this is not the first time Professor Walzer has explored the theory of Just War, it is this time around that he has taken a bold step forward in questioning many of the ideas he has wrestled with in the past and reveals that his own thinking has changed over time to include not only issues of justice in deciding when to fight and justice during combat, but justice after the war has ended. And even though it has been almost thirty years since the publication of his seminal work, Just and Unjust Wars, in which he established the underlying philosophical principles with which to explain, for example, why World War II was morally justifiable and Vietnam was not, today the arguments and arguing about war are more cogent than ever.

Our speaker has written on a wide variety of topics in political theory and moral philosophy. Currently he is the UPS Foundation Professor of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton and Co-Editor of Dissent, as well as a contributing editor to The New Republic.

Please join me in welcoming our guest today, the very distinguished Michael Walzer, a warrior of words. We are so pleased to have you with us.


MICHAEL WALZER: Thank you very much. I am amazed at your numbers this morning and very grateful that so many of you came out so early.

Since my book is a series of elucidations on and comments on and applications of Just War theory, I am going to begin our discussion today with just a few words in defense of the theory, and then I will say a few more words about the Iraq war, since that is not an avoidable topic, however much I might want to avoid it.

So, first, Just War theory is not high theory. It is not like dialectical materialism or Jurgen Habermas's theory of communicative action. This is just a systematic, jargon-free account of the moral judgments that we ordinarily make, that people have been making for a very long time, about the decision to go to war and about the conduct of war. It is an effort to understand the arguments and to see whether or how they fit together.

My experience is that most people who reject the theory then go on to make unsystematic arguments of exactly the same kind, which is okay. I don't think that it is always necessary to be systematic, though it is sometimes helpful to think about what you are saying. Those of us who write regularly and often about war will want to write consistently, and so we will reach for some kind of theoretical order.
Second, Just War is a critical theory. There are a lot of unjust wars, and the theory gives us a language for describing what that adjective means and why it applies in this or that case. But the theory also, obviously, provides a language for justifying war, at least some wars. Some wars are just. The theory is hostile to pacifism.

Now, languages of criticism and justification, like this one, are open to misuse. The most common attack on Just War theory is simply that it can be used, and often is used, to justify wars that are unjust. And that is true. It is even obviously true.

But that same attack can be made with the same truth against moral political language generally and against every example of moral or political language. The idea of friendship can be exploited by false friends. The idea of democracy can be exploited by undemocratic regimes. Remember the people's democracies of Eastern Europe. Rights talk can be used by people who oppose individual rights, as by advocates of states' rights in the United States in the south in the 1960s. But we don't stop talking about friendship or democracy or rights. Instead, we try to explain what those words really mean and why false friends aren't friends and why people's democracies aren't democratic and why states' rights don't override individual rights. And that is all we can do.

There is no way to devise a moral language that is proof against misuse. There is no way to create a language whose words will rebel when they are misused. The adjective "just" won't automatically dis-attach itself from wars to which it is misapplied. That is something we have to do, and only we can do it.

Third, Just War is a secular doctrine. There is indeed a religious doctrine that justifies some wars, wars that are fought on God's behalf or against infidels, holy wars and Crusades. And some writers on the left recently have been quite eager to confuse just wars and holy wars for polemical purposes.

So Michael Hart and Antonio Negri in their new book Multitude, which is the sequel to their famous Empire published just four years ago, claim that Just War theory comes from the age of the Crusades and the religious wars and carries the sensibility of that age into modern times.

But that is exactly wrong. Just War theory was developed by Catholic philosophers in the Middle Ages, but it was developed as an alternative to and a critique of holy war. The definitive statement comes from the Spanish Dominican Francisco de Vitoria: "difference of religion is not a just cause of war."

It is also wrong to say, as Hart and Negri do, that the word "evil"—as in "evil empire" or "axis of evil"—is a concept allied to or implied by Just War theory. The temptations of wartime propaganda often lead writers and publicists, and politicians even more readily, to the portrayal of an "evil" enemy.

But that is not the language of Just War theory. The general negative term is simply "unjust," and the particular negative terms are words like "aggressor" and "war criminal." Now, some aggressors and some war criminals may be evil, like the Nazis in World War II, but that is a different judgment. There is a vast philosophical literature about evil, and it doesn't overlap at all with Just War theory.

Of course, in political discourse different moral languages get mixed up, even deliberately mixed up. But again, there is nothing to do when that happens except to un-mix them, to sort them out, to argue for the necessary distinctions.

I should add that the political versions of the crusade are no more justified than the original religious version. Wars to convert the world to democracy or to foster or expand neo-liberal and capitalist regimes, or, if it is ever an issue again, to sponsor communist revolutions‐all these are unjust wars. Religious doctrines and political ideologies cannot legitimately be advanced by military force.

Fourth, Just War theory possesses whatever degree of objectivity is possible in moral discourse. Today it is a leading theory, it is frequently invoked, and so it is open to the Marxist challenge that the ruling ideas of the age are the ideas of the ruling class, which means that the ruling ideas are developed by intellectuals in the service—or, more vulgarly, in the pay—of the ruling class; or in this case, since we are talking about international rather than domestic politics, in the service of the hegemonic power.

So does Just War theory serve the interests of today's hegemon, the United States? Certainly, supporters of our government, and even officials of our government, insist that it is acting justly, just as lawyers in a courtroom insist that their clients acted legally. Nonetheless, the law provides the basis for criminal convictions and Just War theory provides the basis for arguments about injustice.

Remember how opponents of the Vietnam War adopted the language of Just War theory in their criticism of American policy. That is where I first learned that language. It was regularly used by opponents of the American government.

And then I listened to myself using it, and I decided that one day in quieter times I would try to figure out its moral grammar. And, having tried to do that, I remain as convinced as I was in the Vietnam years that words like "aggression" or "noncombatant" have objective meanings. They cannot be reduced to the material or political interests of one country or one government or one social class.

We will inevitably have to argue about what those meanings are and how the words apply in real-life situations and what we ought to do in the gray areas that open up between, say, aggression and self-defense. But in principle there are right and wrong answers to questions like those, and in practice there are better and worse answers.

Of course, it is true one man's just war is another man's criminal aggression, but that is not to say that these words have no objective meaning. In fact, one of those two men is speaking falsely, and there is no way to avoid the argument about which one that is.

Let's turn to the war in Iraq. The Bush Administration's misuse of Just War theory is probably the most immediate cause of contemporary attacks on the theory—and there are many attacks these days, especially from European intellectuals. I am going to be visiting Italy and France—this book is coming out in Italian and in French—and I am preparing arguments, because I have been warned of all the criticism that is made of Just War theory, which is taken to be an ideology of the American government, and certainly this American government has used the theory.

There are three examples of misuse, recent examples, which are defended sometimes by different people in the Administration, and sometimes by the same people.

First, President Bush himself in his speech at West Point in 2002 systematically confused preventive and preemptive wars. That confusion has been a central feature of the Administration's case for the Iraq war. The distinction between those two is very important in the general theory, since it is one of the places where the line falls between just and unjust.

Now, you probably know the difference, and you probably know it very well, it has been talked about so much.

A real preemptive war begins with a decision to attack an enemy that we know is about to attack us. The attack is literally on its way; we see it coming. We move to strike first so as to avoid the dangers of waiting to be hit. The classic example is Israel in 1967.

Preventive war aims to ward off a much more distant threat, a speculative threat, that may or may not materialize somewhere down the road, and which might be dealt with through deterrence or alliance or diplomacy. There are other things to do.

The classic example is the balance of power. There is a balance. Suddenly the new technology developed by country X or a mobilization of its forces or a new alliance with some powerful neighbor endangers the balance. We worry that if we don't act now, some time in the future we will be at the mercy of country X; and, if we let the situation get too unbalanced, we will not be able to respond when the threat is actual—now it is only potential—and so we launch a preventive war.

Just War theorists and international lawyers have always been very skeptical about arguments of that sort, since there are other things you can do. If they are rearming, you can rearm. If they are developing new technologies, you can develop new technologies. If they have made alliances, you can make alliances. The danger has always seemed too speculative to warrant the killing that war involves right now.

Now, it is possible to make an argument that the line between preemption and prevention is harder to draw today, in an age of rapid delivery systems and weapons of mass destruction. But the containment regime imposed on Iraq after the first Gulf War was—or we can now think of it as—an experiment in addressing this new kind of threat: using force, but short of war. And we had good reasons in 2002 and 2003 to think that the experiment was working, at least with regard to weapons of mass destruction and long-range delivery systems. It is not so successful, as we are now learning, with regard to conventional weapons. But it was successful enough to make full-scale war unnecessary—and, if unnecessary, then unjust.

Second, spokesmen for the Administration have sometimes attempted to pass the war off as an example of humanitarian intervention. It wasn't that. Indeed, the Iraq war may make it much harder to persuade people around the world to support humanitarian intervention in those cases—and there will continue to be cases where it probably is necessary, as today in the Sudan.

Saddam's regime was brutal and oppressive, but at the time of our invasion it was not engaged in mass murder. A military intervention in 1991, after the first Gulf War, to stop the massacre of Shiites and marsh Arabs in the south might have been justified. But the containment regime imposed after 1991 made any repetition of those killings impossible in the north in autonomous Kurdistan and unlikely in the south.

It is only massacre or ethnic cleansing of mass enslavement in progress that justifies marching an army into someone else's country. That is what humanitarian intervention is, and that is not what the Iraq war was.

Nor was it, third, a necessary engagement in the war against terror. In Afghanistan we overthrew a regime that was not merely harboring the terrorists who had attacked us, but was in active partnership with them, for the Taliban provided al-Qaeda with all the benefits of sovereignty, most importantly with a territorial base where they could bring recruits, open training camps, and prepare these recruits for action around the world.

Iraq, by contrast, was a political supporter of some terrorist groups, most importantly in Palestine, but it was not a partner and it was not providing terrorism with a territorial base. We may be doing that in Iraq today, but Saddam was not doing that in 2003.

So all the justifications failed. Nonetheless, it would be better for all of us here in the United States, and in Europe also, and at the UN generally, if there were a decent outcome in Iraq: A stable regime, a more or less liberal, more or less democratic regime, with some protection for both individual and minority rights.

I don't know if that is possible now. I think it would require, as John Kerry has been arguing, a major U.S. effort to internationalize the search for a decent outcome, to bring in other countries, and to cede significant authority to the United Nations.

It is unclear that any other countries are ready to commit resources to such a project or could take on the responsibilities that some countries would have to assume under UN authority. It is unclear that countries are prepared to do that, even if they are asked to do it by a new American administration, as I very much hope they will be, that acknowledges the mistakes of the old one.

Now, if we have to fight on, can this be a just war? Well, it seems to me that this question is independent of the same question asked about the war that we started in 2003, which I have already called unjust.

It is an old argument in Just War theory that jus ad bellum (justice of the war itself) and jus in bello (justice in the conduct or the war) are independent. Those are two separate judgments that we make. A just war can be fought unjustly, as say when we fire bombed Dresden or Tokyo or Hiroshima. An unjust war can be fought justly, as maybe it was by Rommel in North Africa—he had that reputation anyway. So those are independent judgments.

I am suggesting now that the judgment about jus post bellum (justice after the war) may also be independent, or partially independent, of the judgments we make in those other cases.

Given where we are in Iraq today, the occupation, the violence it now requires could possibly be justified if: first, the occupying forces are visibly and certainly prepared to leave within some relatively short time frame, which doesn't go along with building large and permanent-looking bases in the country; second, if the occupying forces are working toward genuinely free elections; third, if they are prepared to leave behind a sovereign state, which means not a satellite state; and fourth and finally, if they make no claim to material benefits from the war and the occupation, like privileged access to Iraqi oil.

Think of those as the conditions of jus post bellum (justice after the war). It is a neglected part of Just War theory which is in urgent need of development, though maybe we are already developing it in the course of the arguments that are now going on about what ought to be done in Iraq.

I received yesterday Noah Feldman's new book, called What We Owe Iraq, which is specifically an argument about jus post bellum made with the hope that it can stand independently of any judgments we make about the initiation of the war.

The four conditions that I listed have not been met so far by our government and its allies, and it is hard for me to imagine them being met, and being seen to be met, which is a crucial part of legitimacy, without some kind of internationalization of the conflict.
I think I will stop there and invite your questions.

Thank you very much. I would like to open the floor to questions.

Questions and Answers

QUESTION: I would like to start from where you left off, with this post bellum internationalization. As you say, an awful lot depends on what is seen to be the case as well as what is the case. If you were a member of the Security Council asked to undertake the kind of authority and the role that you depict in Iraq, would you be confident that you could send your forces into that country, and that the people who are now fighting the occupation would accept that this is something completely new that they should cooperate with and lay down their arms and compete in elections? Or would you not fear that they would see it as a continuation of the occupation by other means and continue to fight it just as ruthlessly as they are fighting now?

I would have no confidence that UN forces, the blue helmets, would make much of a difference to the people currently leading the insurgency. It might reduce their ability to recruit, it might shorten the conflict, but there would be a conflict. If the UN were to take responsibility, it would have to be prepared to send soldiers who were fighters, not just peacekeepers, because there is no peace.

As I said, I'm very doubtful that any countries would be ready now to do that. It's a mess, and why should anyone else involve themselves in this mess, except that I think that there is a wider responsibility for the mess than is commonly recognized, especially in Europe.

And so let me just say a word about how I think that responsibility falls. Well, I told you that I am preparing for arguments in Italy and France.

Suppose that the regime of containment, and you know its elements—it was the embargo, which was supposed to be replaced by something called "smart sanctions," but never really was; the no-fly zones; and the inspection system—suppose that regime had been throughout the twelve years from 1991 to 2003 a genuinely multilateral regime. Suppose that the French, for example, had not withdrawn from the enforcement of the no-fly zones, as they did fairly early on. Suppose that the threat of force that brought the inspectors back had been a multilateral threat, and not just an American threat. Suppose that the embargo had been a genuinely American-European-UN operation, with governments in Europe and Asia preventing their companies from dealing, as we now know they did in quite extraordinary quantities of weapons, during the whole of the embargo period. Suppose this had been a regime of containment enforced internationally.

Then it seems to me the Bush Administration could not unilaterally have called it all off and replaced it with a war. The Bush Administration could call it off because they were running the whole thing pretty much. But had they not been running the whole thing, I don't think the war would have been possible. Had there been a commitment to internationalism after 1991, American unilateralism—I don't pretend that the Bush Administration would not have wanted this war anyway—I don't think they could have fought it.

In that sense, the war is the responsibility of all the countries that dropped out of this regime of containment, and I think they now owe the Middle East, the world, the Iraqi people, some effort to deal with the mess. We created it; I don't doubt that we are the immediate cause. But, as Aristotle taught, there are other causes at work in the world, and the ultimate responsibility may be spread more widely.
And so I think there is at least a moral reason for other countries, not under American authority but under UN authority, to take on this task.

QUESTION: I think the post-war situation has been spelled out pretty well by Stanley Hoffmann in the latest issue of New York Review of Books, where he has all your arguments. It first requires a clear declaration from the Bush Administration about exit strategies—they don't want to have any benefits afterwards, and so on —and I doubt we will get that.

But one essential component is precisely this, that the whole operation afterwards must be genuinely UN-led and a multinational force should have Iraqi leadership, not American.

I think when you go to Europe you shouldn't be too afraid, depending of course where you go, in which locale so to say, because Europeans can see the difference between Afghanistan and Iraq. Afghanistan was legitimate because it was self-defense and there was the UN behind it, and therefore you had practically the whole world community in Afghanistan helping with elections, reconstruction, and so on, the UN, etc., etc. You don't have that in Iraq.

Finally, I think that the Michael Walzer of the seventeenth century, Hugo Grotius in the Netherlands, defined this very clearly too, sayijng that the only just war was when there was an injury received. 9/11 was an injury received and therefore Afghanistan was justfiable. But there was no injury received from Iraq. This Europeans know. They see the difference with Kosovo and Afghanistan versus Iraq. So don't be afraid of that. You will do well.

I'm not sure I agree. I think I would be afraid of going to Europe if I were you.

But just to continue that thought for a moment, it seems to me that talking about a greater level of internationalization of Iraq post a Kerry victory is really talking about fairyland. I mean the reality is that you are quite right, I can't foresee circumstances in which, for example, the French and the Germans are going to commit troops in Iraq or make a substantial effort there. In fact, I would say that it has got to be Chancellor Schröder's worst nightmare for John Kerry to be elected and then to ring him up the next day and say, "Help me in Iraq."

But just to go back to what I think—forgive me—seems to be some contradiction in what you say about containment. In your initial remarks you said very clearly that containment had been abandoned, that it was an approach which should have been continued with; but then you later said to us that it wasn't working because, in effect, the Americans were running it. Isn't it fair to say that containment had failed, that the prospect was clearly that sanctions were failing seriously, and there was every indication that Saddam was likely to take advantage of that situation to at some stage resume the WMD program that he had often enough had in the past?

MICHAEL WALZER: Certainly the no-fly zones were working, especially and most clearly in the north. It does seem to me that the no-fly zones were a kind of humanitarian intervention, short of war, and they had produced a kind of regime change, namely an autonomous Kurdistan. So that was successful. It was American planes and some British planes flying. And as I said, the French had withdrawn; the French had initially flown, I believe, but then stopped.

The embargo was obviously not working, it was causing considerable injury to the Iraqi people and not preventing the acquisition of weapons, but at least an attempt could have been made to repair the embargo. Colin Powell talked about smart sanctions in the period between the election of Bush and 9/11. The Americans presumably had some kind of a plan, and it would have been possible to publicly shame, or to try to shame, governments around the world into cracking down on the arms trade that their countrymen were engaged in.
The inspection system had worked until 1999, had really worked. As we now know, the reports were accurate. And then it seemed to be potentially working again.

I suggested in a New York Times Op-Ed page a few weeks before the war that we expand the no-fly zones, provide armed soldiers for the inspectors, so that once a site was inspected you could post guards there and it wouldn't have to be inspected again. So it moved to the smart sanctions that Colin Powell that had proposed. That seemed to me to be a better program than an all-out war.

I quite agree with you that the UN's blue helmet troops are inadequate to be able to help in this particular incident. The UN today seems to primarily specialize in $10 billion graft operations.

However, I would like to know what disagreements you seem to have with the Europeans that would cause fear on your trip to Europe. What particular policy points do you think that you are coming from that may cause disagreements and might be of interest to us?

Well, because I do believe that they are partly responsible for this war, that they should have been part of the regime of containment, and that had they proposed a plan for making containment work, instead of simply opposing the American proposals, I think they would have at least made the war much more difficult for the Bush people to fight. And I think that now they have some responsibility to help in Iraq, as I said; not under American command, but under some new set of political and military arrangements.

The concept of Just War is certainly a necessary and stimulating and thoughtful way of approaching something. But I'm wondering if we are looking at something morally and we are trying to analyze a situation in moral terms, like family deliberations or like human squabbles, somehow or other the prerequisite for a moral modeling is that there would be some rational approach to things and that there would be understandings of agendas and that the outlook would be common.

But what we have here, once we get past a sort of moral measurement, is that we don't have a situation that lends itself to simple views. You have just acknowledged that perhaps a true friend was not a true friend in this situation, that agendas really are not defined, and that perhaps we are measuring it in a slightly different way. Perhaps there really is a much larger agenda, and it has been postulated this is almost a continuation of the Gulf War or continuation of the Carter Doctrine.

So I am just questioning whether or not moral views are helpful and necessary, but whether real politics in a sense also has a counterbalancing answer and has to be addressed.

I am not exactly sure of the question. Of course there is no such thing in politics as a pure moral will. Individuals have interests. Countries have interests. Political leaders even have a moral obligation to act in the interests of the citizens of their country. We don't expect foreign policy to be dictated by morality; we expect it to be constrained by morality. It is dictated by interest, constrained by morality. I think that is a fairly plausible account of the way people actually do think about these questions.

I never was a soldier, and so when I came to write about these questions I spent a lot of time talking to soldiers and reading memoirs of soldiers and military histories. The memoirs of combat are full of accounts of soldiers worrying about what's the right thing to do, even in very tense and difficult situations when their lives are at risk. It is a saint, I suppose, who sacrifices his life.

But in war risks are quantitative; you can take a very big risk, you can take a very little risk. And morality does affect them—you just talk to people—morality does affect the level of risk that they are prepared to accept. And I think that is also true of political leaders.

But there was another suggestion in your comment. Sometimes Just War theory is accused of focusing too much on the immediate occasion of the war. This is especially a critique—I don't know where you are coming from—that comes from the left, that Just War theory misses imperialist design.

As in the case of Rome, every time Rome fought a war, they had a legal reason, and they were very scrupulous about that. Every war was always preceded by an argument that a treaty had been violated, something had been done by the other side that justified this war. If you focus on that question, was the treaty really violated, you miss the long history of Roman imperialism.

But I don't think Just War theorists are required to focus in that way. In fact, a long history of conquest is a long history of injustice, and imperial design is unjust. The paradigmatic example of an unjust war is a war of conquest. If it has been premeditated over a long period of time, I would think that the theorists can address that issue of premeditation, just as a lawyer looking at an act of violence can ask "was this planned over a long period of time or did it happen at this moment for some reason specific to the moment?" Those are questions that we can open up.

I want to pick up that last point. People who invoke the Just War theory often refer back to Munich, and they see Munich as the paradigm of an example that had the Allies prevented the invasion by Hitler into the Sudetenland and then taking Czechoslovakia, that had they confronted him at that time, World War II might have been avoided, and that would have been a good example of a preventive war. Looking back, how do you feel about that as an option and as an argument?

Well, it would not have been an example of preventive war. Preventive war would have been to attack in 1933, after Hitler made his first speech. That would have been a preventive war. When he marched into the Sudetenland, to have fought then would have been a just war and would have been a classic paradigmatic example of a just war.

A just war is fought by the victim of the attack—as by, say, the Finns responding to a Russian invasion, or the Poles to a German invasion in 1939—but it is also just for any country to come to the aid of a victim of aggression. If I am attacked on the street, I can defend myself and that is justified. If you see me being attacked and rush to help me, that is also justified. And so a war to defend the Czechs would certainly have been a classic example of a just war.

The Financial Times this morning had in their headlines that the Germans now say they wouldn't rule out sending forces to Iraq as long as it was through a UN ruling. In fact if this follows through, how much effect do you think this would have on other countries?

I assume the intention is to have an effect on this country, I hope. Schröder said in the course of his own election campaign that he would not send troops even under UN auspices, but I think that was a very bad position, and I know that there were people in his party and in the Green Party who were opposed to that policy declaration, precisely because there are still internationalists among German Social Democrats.

But yes, I would think that if the Germans were prepared under a new American Administration and under a real UN regime to send forces, that would make a difference in a lot of other countries.

There is an assumption in your argument that everyone agrees on what should have been done about Iraq prior to the war. You talked about the allies dropping out of the sanctions regime and dropping out of the no-fly zone and so forth. But I wonder if that is really correct. I think that it is quite possible that there were allies who thought that Iraq should have been restored to a normal country and they fundamentally disagreed with the regime of keeping Iraq contained. I don't know how they would feel now. They may be willing possibly to engage in restoring Iraq to the position of a normal country.

But if they do that, and if Iraq is able to make its own decisions and so forth, then there are choices to be made about what sort of relationship we and they are going to have with Iraq. It seems to me that is also part of the consideration that you ought to take into account in your post-war justice.

I accept that there were real disagreements about the containment regime. But countries that criticize the unilateralism of the Bush Administration should not unilaterally have dropped out of the sanction regime, which was in its origins a multilateral commitment, an international commitment.

I was interested just in the elements that you outlined in terms of Just War theory, the jus post bellum. I was wondering why you have emphasized the status of Iraq, for example, after the occupation forces leave. I was wondering whether or not we should be considering whether there should be a duty of accountability, for example, when the occupation forces are there and in government, or whether there is actually a fiduciary duty between the governors and the people in occupied territories. That is, is there room for some sort of relationship during the occupation, as opposed to simply afterwards, preparing for elections, preparing for going forward?

As you know, the community of international lawyers has been arguing a lot recently about trusteeship arrangements, which does impose a fiduciary duty. But the trust is owed to, say, the United Nations—or in the 1920s to the League of Nations—and then through the UN to the Iraqi people. It would not be owed directly. I think that's the way the legal regime worked, although I am not sure.

But I do accept that an occupation regime is responsible in very important ways to the people it occupies and it ought to be held legally responsible. It is one of the difficulties of this American occupation that the private contractors who we have there, apparently in very large numbers, are responsible to the companies that pay them, which are under contract with the U.S. government, and those private contractors apparently have to be tried in the United States even for crimes they commit in Iraq, and are not subject to military justice under the U.S. Armed Forces Code.

So I am really not sure how committed we are to this notion that we are responsible for what we do and for what any of our soldiers do in Iraq.

I'm sure everyone here is aware that there is an effort to put on the air a film showing Senator Kerry in a very bad light with regard to the Vietnam War. Clearly when he came back he said the war was not a just war and it was not fought justly, as you indicated earlier, these two aspects of it.

What would you say? How would you advise him to respond to that? What is being said is that his characterization of the war really caused tremendous damage to American forces. That is a very serious allegation.

He is a politician in a difficult position, and I am entirely sympathetic. He wants Americans to respect him because he went and fought in Vietnam. He wants Americans to respect him because he came home and opposed the war. He is really aiming at two different audiences, asking for respect from two different audiences, whose members may not like one another. So that is a difficult political position.

I happen to think he deserves respect from both audiences, and I hope he gets enough of it on November 2nd.

We know that there were no weapons of mass destruction in March of 2003 in Iraq, and we know there is no connection now between the Iraqi government and al-Qaeda. But if in fact there had been weapons of mass destruction and if in fact there had been a connection in March of 2003 between the Iraqi government and al-Qaeda, would the Administration have been justified under the theory of preemptive attack for going into Iraq, because while Saddam wasn't threatening to use those weapons of mass destruction immediately against the United States, his connection with al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda's proclivity towards the use of that type of thing could have been argued to be enough of a threat to be closer to the Six Day War situation and attacking Hitler in 1933?

Actually I believed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. I thought there was good reason to believe it, since he did not do what he obviously should have done had he wanted to avoid the attack, and that is to bring out the people who had, as we now know, destroyed the stockpiles, and have them tell us exactly what they did and where they did it and how they did it. All that was secret.

So we had reports from UN inspections about quantities of biological and chemical weapons in Iraq in the very late 1990s and we had no information about the destruction of those weapons, so there was in fact, I think, good reason to believe that Iraq had these weapons. And yet, it seemed to me at the time, and to many other people, that the regime of containment was sufficient to prevent the deployment of those weapons. If the inspectors were moving freely around the country, and if they had stopped giving Saddam forty-eight hours' notice before they went anyplace, if the no-fly zones were in full operation and maybe expanded, and if smart sanctions were in effect, I think this regime would have been a successful effort to deal with that kind of threat.

Now, if we also had information, which we did not have, if we also had reason to believe, which we did not have, that Saddam was actively cooperating with al-Qaeda and might be passing weapons to al-Qaeda, that would have been I think a reason to go to war.

Professor Walzer, as always, I thank you for giving us a framework so we too can argue about war.

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DEC 4, 1997 Journal

Ethics & International Affairs Volume 11 (1997): Special Section: Twenty Years of Michael Walzer's Just and Unjust Wars: A Response [Abstract]

Responding to the critiques of the four previous authors, Walzer opens with a statement of the inherent imperfection of any theory of war. He reminds ...

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