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Response to "Justice After War"

January 7, 2003

The following was received in response to our November/December cover story, "Justice after War."

WALTER GIVHAN: In “Justice After War,” Tony Lang and Mary-Lea Cox are right to look beyond a potential war with Iraq to contemplate what will — and should — come after the current regime is gone. Nevertheless, they fail to identify the primary consideration that should govern the rebuilding of Iraq and its institutions, and that is security. If it comes to pass, this war will be fought out of concern for the security of the United States, its allies, the region, and yes, the Iraqi people. Certainly there are important moral questions, but the most important questions have to do with providing for the security of the citizens of our country and the region, which of course includes the Iraqi people. That concept of security and defense is firmly embedded in the just war tradition and should rightly guide any efforts to rebuild Iraq in the wake of war.

The immediate threat to U.S. and regional security is Saddam Hussein and the weapons possessed by his regime. In addition to attacking Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Israel within the last fifteen years, the Iraqi government has used weapons of mass destruction against its own citizens. Just as the United States and its allies have an interest in defending themselves from such attacks, they also have an enlightened self-interest in providing for the long-term security of the region through building a postwar Iraq that will not threaten its neighbors or citizens.

These security imperatives argue for just the kind of lasting peace that the authors would like to see — a happy coincidence of goals. Security considerations should also determine the pace, extent, and priority of reform implementation, while remaining adaptable to the exigencies of the Iraqi situation. War crime trials and truth commissions may be appropriate at some point, but the first order of business has to be the establishment of peace and a basic order in Iraq, one that will nurture the nation’s growth and secure its future. Although establishing the rights of Iraqi citizens might fall within the scope of responsibilities, it is properly viewed in the context of these larger concerns.

Walter Givhan is a Military Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is an Air Force colonel and fighter pilot who served as the U.S. Air Liaison Officer to the French ground commander during the Gulf War. His views are his own and do not represent those of the Air Force or the Council on Foreign Relations.

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Iraq War