Volume 24, Issue 1, Spring 2010
John W. Lango
Is There a Just Cause for Current U.S. Military Operations in Afghanistan?
The current armed conflict in Afghanistan (briefly, the Afghan conflict) is viewed through the lens of a just war theory. In particular, the question stated by the title is explored by means of a generalized just cause principle. For brevity, empirical, practical, and legal issues about the Afghan conflict are mostly set aside. Hence a definite answer to the question is not proposed. Instead, the main aim is to clarify the question. Specifically, the question is amplified, by distinguishing putative just causes of countering terrorism, countering an insurgency, and countering extreme violations of basic human rights. Apparently, however, U.S. government officials (e.g., President Barack Obama) and U.S. military commanders (e.g., General Stanley McChrystal) have mixed goals or motives concerning current U.S.
military operations in Afghanistan. Nonetheless, from the standpoint of a just war theory, it is instructive to analytically distinguish these putative just causes, and to consider them separately. Additionally, it is instructive to consider how they might be combined. Consequently, a fourth putative just cause is considered: countering violent spoilers of peacebuilding. (This paper was completed on March 31, 2010.)