Guns of war should remain silent until the Bush administration demonstrates that an assault on Iraq would measure up to the five principles of just war theory. According to what the American people and our allies have seen, every one of the principles presents a serious question regarding the justice of a war on Iraq.

That doesn’t mean President Bush necessarily would be wrong to disarm and overthrow Saddam Hussein. It does not mean Hussein should not be held accountable for the evil he has unleashed. But it does mean our president also should be held accountable for launching a war. The United States should not wage an unjust war.

Just war theory, based upon the principles of Augustine and applied to conflict for 1,500 years, helps moral people evaluate the appropriateness of war. It focuses on five ideals:

Just cause. The Bush administration has claimed Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction. If so, and if Iraq also possesses technology capable of targeting these weapons on other nations, a strong case can be made for using military force to disarm Hussein. After all, he already has shown that, if armed, he will utilize such weapons, even upon his own people.

However, the United Nations’ weapons inspectors have yet to find a “smoking gun.” We do not know–or at least the Bush administration has not demonstrated–that Hussein has such a weapon. War would be a high price to pay–in terms of allied and Iraqi lives, not to mention economic costs–to remove non-existent weapons from the hands of a despicable despot.

Perhaps the U.S. government possesses intelligence proving Hussein has such weapons. President Bush seems to be forthright and determined, leading many Americans to wonder why he feels so strongly about disarming Hussein when no weapons have been discovered. The president should provide proof of weapons of mass destruction if he hopes to demonstrate he has just cause for war with Iraq.

Proper authority. Of course, the president and Congress can wage war if they so choose. But we live in a complex world in which America needs–whether we always realize it or not–the support and goodwill of the community of nations. That’s why obtaining the strategic alliances and the appropriate U.N. resolutions is so important.

The United States should be concerned about our relationships with other nations and our credibility around the globe. We may be the world’s only current superpower, and we may be able to act with impunity on many fronts. However, we live on an interlocking, interconnected planet. Every action we take has consequences. The Lone Ranger, Dirty Harry and Rambo may be distinct American icons, but they provide lousy role models for international statesmanship, which is vital today.

A decade ago, the president’s father conducted the Gulf War. It was successful in large part because he sought and obtained the blessing and support of a strong coalition of other nations. Such coalition-building today is part of demonstrating proper authority for war.

Right intention. So far, the stated intention of war with Iraq is twofold. We would eliminate weapons of mass destruction from a murderous tyrant. We also would remove that tyrant from power, thus offering the citizens of his country an opportunity to enjoy democracy. The first intention, if Hussein does indeed possess weapons that can kill thousands or even millions, is reasonable. The second intention would seem valid to Western minds but should be validated by citizens of Iraq. Unfortunately, they cannot safely respond until their dictator is removed.

The temptation to act on wrong intentions will be strong, especially in war. We should resist the impulse to vigilantism, particularly upon the people of Iraq, who are Hussein’s most vulnerable victims. We should resist the inclination to utilize a war to manipulate the global economy or world oil prices. We should resist the temptation to export a Western world view into an ancient culture. And as strong as the desire may be–especially since religion plays such a key role in geopolitics these days–we should resist the opportunity to utilize military might, economic power and ideological leverage to coerce the faith of others.

Predetermining intentions is an imprecise calculation. However, we must not forget that intentions are revealed by the actions of those who have the power to act upon them.

Reasonable success. Anyone who has seen clips or read stories about U.S. troops’ urban combat training certainly has entertained questions about the reasonable success of a war with Iraq. It is likely to be fought in the streets of Baghdad, house to house, building to building. Hussein is likely to use civilians as human shields to protect military targets.

The specter of urban guerrilla warfare raises images of Vietnam, where ground troops often could not distinguish friend from foe until a grenade tore off a leg or a bullet killed a buddy. Death is part of any war, but President Bush and his advisers must calculate carefully the costs.

Proportional results. This war would not be as “antiseptic” as the Gulf War, won for the most part on the wings of fighter jets and bombers. We must weigh the human cost against the objective outcomes of a war. And if it’s civilian lives we’re ultimately trying to save, we must remember God loves the people of Iraq and considers their lives as valuable as our own.

Whatever happens, may we revere our military personnel. They have committed themselves to follow the orders of their commanders and to sacrifice their lives, not only for our freedom but for the freedom of citizens of other nations. They are worthy of our enduring love and respect.

These are defining days of destiny. We may be on the verge of a world war. Pray for President Bush and his key advisers. Pray for our military personnel and their families. Pray for leaders of the United Nations and other countries. Pray for Saddam Hussein and the people of Iraq. Pray for the solidarity of our nation. Pray for peace and deliverance from war.

Whatever happens, may we revere our military personnel. They have committed themselves to follow the orders of their commanders and to sacrifice their lives, not only for our freedom but for the freedom of citizens of other nations. They are worthy of our enduring love and respect.

Marv Knox is editor of the Baptist Standard. Used by permission.

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