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Social Philosophy Today

Volume 21, 2005

Human Rights, Religion, and Democracy

Joseph Betz
Pages 137-156

Proportionality, Just War Theory, and America’s 2003–2004 War Against Iraq

Just war theory requires that a nation at war respect proportionality both before it goes to war, jus ad bellum, and in the way it fights a war, jus in bello. To respect proportionality is to know or estimate on good evidence that the whole war and the tactics used in the war will not generate more evil and harm and costs than they will generate good and help and benefits. This paper argues that the 2003–2004 U.S. war on Iraq fails on both counts. It considers, in regard to jus ad bellum, the evils, harms, and costs that the war forces on the Iraqi military and civilians, the American military, and American and non-Iraqi civilians. It considers, under jus in bello, the evils, harms, and costs that the war forces on Iraqi civilians. On the proportionality standards for a just war, this war is a miserable failure.

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