April 17, 2007

Just War and Westphalia

A small note:

I was reading the comments on a catholic analysis of the Iraq war when it just floored me how limited the discussion was regarding the nature of warfare. It was all, but all, laid out and argued in westphalian terms, pro and contra. But the pro side of the argument is much enhanced if one does not limit oneself to westphalian warfare. Iraq did not declare war or act in westphalian war terms but it certainly was at war with a good portion of the rest of the world if one takes any reasonable definition from pre-westphalian days.

When one paid mercenary companies to burn ones' enemies crops, kill their people, and generally make nuisances of themselves, this was an act of war. Since Saddam did this openly, the whole conversation about "pre-emptive war" disappears and the Iraq war turns into a more conventional discussion on a defensive war.

Enlarging the circumstances to be considered in war analysis isn't something new for me though. What was new is the insight on how internalized catholicism has made westphalianism as a moral argument on war. So far as I can tell, the Peace of Westphalia has almost no moral force. It was a political solution to the religious wars of Europe. It imposed political blinders and the acceptance of a number of polite fictions that were useful to keep the peace. When a country rejects its strictures, Catholic moral thought should put aside westphalianism and look at the war's justness without those blinders. But we just don't do it. The prospect of perpetual and growing mercenary war (under cover of islamic religious zealotry) just doesn't get its due and you can see it in the comments, especially on the opportunities that the pro-just war side repeatedly misses.

Saddam was at war with Israel via Hamas, with the Philippines via Abu Sayyef, with a dozen other nations via his support of terrorists, many of which had defense treaties with the US. Since the political entity called the USA is full on committed to the polite fictions of westphalianism, its moral justifications for its actions can only be confused. It does not follow that Catholicism need maintain those polite fictions though it's somewhat understandable that flesh and blood catholics may fall prey to those errors. That doesn't change the fact that it's a mistake.

The Catholic Church is 2000 years old. Westphalia was signed in 1648. The wars that confront us going forward are mostly going to be non-westphalian wars. It behooves the Church to do better.

Posted by TMLutas at April 17, 2007 06:48 AM