In accepting the Nobel Peace Prize today in Oslo, Norway, President Obama invoked the idea of “just war” to rationalize his escalation of the war in Afghanistan and the continued drone attacks against the people of Pakistan. The president rightly stated that certain criteria must be met for a war to be considered “just,” but did not proceed to examine his criteria as they relate to the wars he is continuing in Iraq and Afghanistan.
President Obama’s definition of a “just war,” according to his Nobel acceptance speech is a war that:
1. Is waged as a last resort or in self-defense;
2. Uses proportional force;
3. Spares civilians from violence whenever possible.
Even a cursory glance at this definition of a “just war” shows that what the US is doing in Afghanistan falls far short.
Waged as a last resort or in self-defense
This criterion was a stretch when the US invaded in 2001, but eight years later it’s downright silly. No other means of putting an end to this conflict have been reasonably attempted. Ongoing refusal by the United States to pursue a diplomatic solution through negotiations with the Taliban shows that this war has never been a “last resort.”
Uses proportional force
Since the 2001 invasion, the US Air Force has dropped around 31 million pounds of bombs on Afghanistan. There are countless examples of disproportionate force used, such as an aerial bombing raid in response to celebratory gunfire at a wedding.
Spares civilians from violence whenever possible
Sending drones to fire missiles at Pakistani villages, a strategy that has increased dramatically under President Obama’s watch, is a sure way to injure, traumatize and kill many civilians. In Afghanistan, estimates range from 12,000 to 32,000 civilians killed as a result of the current war. Over 200,000 are known to be living in Internally Displaced Persons camps in Afghanistan. With the upcoming escalation of US and NATO troops, deaths of both Afghan civilians and foreign troops are certain to rise.
A war of choice with diplomacy “off the table” is not just. War is not peace, regardless of how you spin it.