From the Lecture Series on Religion and Violence, Stetson
University, Deland Florida
Application of Just War Criteria to the War against
 There are some distinct conceptual problems applying the
just war tradition to the current engagement against terrorist
 The first and most obvious difficulty is that the just war
tradition since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 has been organized
around the principle of sovereign states. You will recall, that
prior to the Reformation, Europe notionally was a unified Christian
civilization. Nationality was in principle, and often in practice,
subordinated to a common loyalty to the Pope and the ideal of
 After the Reformation, and after the wars of religion that
followed, it became obvious that the idea of a unified Europe was
no longer possible. After a couple centuries of religious war
attempting to restore that unity in the name of one form of
Christianity or another, the states of Europe accepted at
Westphalia that there would be a new international order, dominated
by sovereign states. These new sovereign states would have the twin
rights of territorial integrity and political sovereignty. In other
words, peace would be gained in Europe by allowing each state to
control its own internal affairs. In practice, this meant that
Catholic states would persecute Protestants, and Protestant states
would persecute Catholics. But international stability was to be
bought, as we would say in modern parlance, at the price of human
 This means that only states can truly wage war against one
another. Therefore, when we use the term "war against terrorism,"
we are not using language precisely. Of course, in the case of
Afghanistan, the fact that the Taliban government of Afghanistan
was unwilling to produce the al Qaeda representatives within its
territory made it possible to conduct war against the de facto
government of Afghanistan, as well as against the terrorist groups
whom they harbored.
 But as our engagements with al Qaeda extend globally, the
character of that engagement will change dramatically with
reference to the various states in whose territory they may be
found. Some states, such as the Philippines and Georgia, may invite
American forces to operate with their own forces to suppress
terrorist organizations they have internal reasons for wanting to
suppress. Some states, such as Pakistan, may have governments
willing to act to suppress and locate al Qaeda representatives, but
at considerable domestic political risk to their own government's
stability. Some states may be too weak, even if willing, to act
against al Qaeda; some may indeed actively support or covertly be
willing to tolerate terrorist presence in their territories.
 Given that complex picture, how do we begin to think about
our relationship to these various situations? The modern theory of
state sovereignty would counsel that every state is free to do
within its own territory whatever it chooses. Presumably, that
freedom includes harboring individuals and groups that are
unpalatable to other states. But clearly, it is our intent to
pursue al Qaeda wherever we may find it, if necessary in the face
of resistance or noncooperation from the government in whose
territory they may reside. What justification in terms of just war
can there be for such interventions?
 Obviously, there is no great ethical or legal question
involved with states that choose to cooperate in our efforts. They
are clearly acting within the scope of their sovereignty to invite
us to assist them to locate and defeat terrorist groups internal to
 But what about those states that do not cooperate, either
from inability or from unwillingness? The standard of Westphalian
respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty would argue
strongly against granting the US or even a coalition to intervene
in such circumstances--at least in the absence of an authorizing
resolution from the UN.
 But it may be that the era of Westphalian sovereignty is
fading. Recall that the moral tradition of just war (as distinct
from the specific legal tradition) is much older and more robust
than its particular instantiation in formal international law in
its post-Westphalian form.
 In his "Letter to Count Boniface," Augustine urges Roman
military commander Boniface to see his military service in
resistance to barbarian invasion as a mournful but necessary duty.
The necessity of fighting has been imposed by those who have
disrupted the relative peace and order of the Roman Empire, and not
by Boniface's will.
 Writing from his home in North Africa to this senior
military officer after Rome itself has already fallen, Augustine
invokes Jesus' saying, "Blessed are the peacemakers" and applies it
to the conscientious soldier who, by using arms against the
barbarian, is attempting to restore the peace that has been broken
 The temporal peace Augustine urges Boniface to restore is
not, by any stretch of the imagination, the perfect peace of the
City of God. It is the lesser temporal order of the Human City -- a
"tranquility of order" in which there are still many who are
miserable, but within an overall framework of order. Individuals in
that order may be wretched, Augustine grants, but "they would
… be far more wretched if they had not that peace which
arises from being in harmony with the natural order of things."
Augustine realizes that, in the conflict between the barbarians and
the Roman army in his lifetime, the stakes are literally the
collapse of civilization as his world had known it for centuries.
He realizes that what follows, if Rome is defeated (and what did
follow, since it was!), was not just a rearrangement of the
individual miseries of his world. What follows is the Dark Ages,
from which centuries will be required before even a flicker of
civilization reappears in the Western Roman Empire.
What is the relevance of this ancient discussion to the
current Global War Against Terrorism?
 Like Augustine, we are now dealing with threats and
challenges that do not fit the model of state sovereignty that has
defined the Westphalian world for the past four centuries. What is
threatened by al Qaeda is not captured in a conceptual model which
thinks of wars as conflicts between states, or in which what is at
stake is the prospering or survival of a particular state's
political order or territory.
 If al Qaeda's fondest hopes were realized, what would fall
is not the United States of America, but rather the entire world
order created over centuries by the forces of capitalism,
Enlightenment rationality, modern science, and political
 It is fashionable, of course, to criticize the miseries
created for many groups and nations by that civilization. There
are, indeed, many valid and important questions to be raised about
the effects of globalized trade, the World Trade Organization, or
the spread of American culture across the planet. But it is no more
of the essence of the argument to idealize our civilization than it
was for Augustine to pretend that Rome ruled a world of sweetness
and light. Moral seriousness requires, instead, asking "if this
civilization falls, what comes next?"
 There is always room for reform and change under an
umbrella provided by Augustine's "tranquility of order." The sober
assessment of the situation asks not about the perfection of order,
but about the cost of its collapse. One intellectual disease of
much of modern liberalism and many a modern university is a kind of
moral utopianism which one-sidedly dwells on the deficiencies and
injustices of existing civilization.
 Such a perspective neglects entirely to balance moral
criticism of imperfections with an equivalent recognition of the
value of order. Such thinking is then squeamish about the reality
that such order is always maintained by power, often in ways which
are less than perfect or ideal.
 Such moral utopianism fails entirely to provide a moral and
conceptual framework within which real-world political decisions
can be made. One finds such views, for example, in perspectives
that attribute responsibility for the attacks of September 11
exclusively or primarily to elements of American policy and conduct
- while not recognizing the absolutely essential role of America
and her power in maintaining what passes for "tranquility of order"
in the modern world.
 When one contemplates an absence of that order, few can
improve on Thomas Hobbes' description:
Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of Warre, where
every man is Enemy to every man; the same is consequent to the
time, wherein men live without other security, than what their own
strength, and their own invention shall furnish them withal. In
such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit
thereof is uncertain: and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no
Navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea;
no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving, and removing such
things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the
Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and
which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent
death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and
 What I am suggesting is that we may well be at one of those
historical moments when a real shift in our thinking is required.
It is not the just war framework of the post-Reformation
Westphalian order that provides the deepest insight to our
circumstance--although the fact that black letter international law
presupposes that order makes harmonizing our challenges with that
form of the just war tradition necessary and important. But the
terrorist challenges are not fundamentally challenges to particular
states, but rather to civilization itself as we know it.
 For all the brutality of its foundations and conduct, the
Pax Romana was, for Augustine, clearly an order worth defending; no
less, the Pax Americana in our time and place. Indeed, a striking
fact about the early Christian church is, for all its ambivalence
about serving in the Roman government, there was never the hint of
a doubt that the stability, safety, and ease of travel made
possible by Roman power was a gift of God. Similarly, it does not
require much imagination to imagine the human consequences of a
collapse of the complex and interlocking structures of the modern
international system. Of course, there's plenty of misery in our
world, but it pales to insignificance in comparison to an abrupt
break or collapse in the structures that keep it intact.
 The most fundamental point of the evolution of a just war
perspective in the Christian church was a resolute embrace of the
realm of practical politics as a locus of moral seriousness. The
temptation to flee the world of moral ambiguity and shades of gray
is, of course, a powerful one - a tug no morally serious person can
avoid feeling. But it is, from the core of the just war
perspective, a temptation to be resisted in favor of the hard,
messy, and (as Augustine put it) "mournful" work of sustaining
relative goods in the face of greater evils.