Liberty, Current Events

On the War on ISIS

I have a post over at LawFare on the war on ISIS. There I discuss the views of Michael Walzer and Jeff McMahan before advancing my own proposal. Here it is:

  1. The international community—represented by an appropriate military coalition—has a just cause to wage war on ISIS. That just cause is twofold: (a) the right of humanitarian intervention aimed at saving the populations in Syria and Iraq that are presently victimized by ISIS, and (b) the right of self-defense in response to ISIS’ attacks elsewhere.
  2. The Coalition should include ground troops, which should ideally be recruited from states in the region.
  3. The Coalition should conduct the war in accordance with jus in bello, including the principle of proportionality. The Geneva Conventions are a reasonable approximation to such norms.
  4. The immediate aim of the war should be to defeat ISIS and put an end to its rule in the region. The long-term end of the war should be to help local populations establish the political institutions that will secure peace, freedom from violence, the rule of law, and human rights, in a way that creates the conditions for freedom and prosperity and prevents the resurgence of ISIS or similar murderous organizations. The length of time required to achieve this second aim cannot be established in advance.
  5. At home, states struck by terrorist violence should employ the tools of just policing in a manner consistent with civil liberties and due process. In particular, states may not employ the tools of war to confront domestic terrorists.
  6. The war should be accompanied by a generous immigration policy, especially toward those who flee ISIS’s rule. In implementing this policy, states are of course entitled to exclude terrorists and criminals.
  • JamesKann

    Please leave the U.S. out of this “Coalition” and remove all U.S. troops from the region while we’re at it. Thank you.

  • craig schlesinger

    The international community thought there was a just cause for war (or black ops to depose democratically elected governments and install puppet dictators, or just support already-in-power despots) in the middle east multiple times prior to ISIS forming, which in turn radicalized people in the middle east against the international community. Ever heard of the Iranian revolt? Al Qaeda? Mubarak? Kadafi? Hussein? We also bow down to Saudi royalty, literally. Oh yeah, and the Israeli government is an apartheid state, but somehow they’re our best buds? A ridiculous proposal from an author with an awful track record on war.

  • SGCleveland

    This post really shows the limits of philosophy in dealing with this crisis. I don’t disagree with any of these points, but it’s not really breaking new ground here. Most people probably believe war could be philosophically justified against ISIS; that is not the issue that is paralyzing the international community. The issue is that steps 2 and 4, while philosophically justified, are practically impossible (especially step 4). Until you’ve solved step 4, I’m really not sure what this post contributes to the conversation.

    • Farstrider

      Assume a can opener.

  • martinbrock

    7. I should have Bill Gates’ money and Ron Jeremy’s penis.

    • Sean II

      I hear both are diminished by excessive donation.

  • USSMidway

    Is the goal to WIN, or is the goal to make others happy? If we want to win, then screw the international coalition and abandon the stupidity of proportional response. We should make a decision, and if we decide to eliminate ISIS, then do it with as much firepower as needed with minimum risk to US personnel. This means we should inform or involve others only to the extent they can be truly helpful, but mostly to stay out of our way. This is much less complicated then these philosophers would make it.

  • The Smart Factory

    Did Fernando just justify the war in Iraq?

    • martinbrock

      He only justified a fairy tale, so when the next actual war ends up like the last one, his ass is covered.

  • CFV
  • stevenjohnson2

    The war in Syria/Iraq is primarily a war to overthrow Assad or, failing that to partition Syria de facto; to crush the YPG; to limit the power of the Shia Baghdad government, which is still insufficiently responsive to the US by a further de facto partition of Iraq with a Sunni state as well as the Kurdish Regional Government. ISIS per se is not particularly popular with the international coalition of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and the US/Israel, but these powers have different priorities therefore their cooperation is insufficient to control all aspects, either to replace Islamic State with a more pliable instrument or to overthrow Assad. Assad’s government apparently retains the support of the majority of the Syrian people, which is why such a well funded, well armed, strongly re-enforced opposition has failed to win…the international coalition simply does not have a strong enough base in the population to organize a victory. Too much of the so-called opposition is beholden to its foreign masters to unite.

    Given that this is the real situation, the plan offered in the OP would be psychotic ravings if it wasn’t useful propaganda. But even in its own terms, it is striking that the plan avoids any hint that the choice of war depends upon the possibility of war achieving its aims. Maybe this seems like a question of expediency, but it seems to me that a moral claim to just war still needs to meet this standard. Item 1a above actually claims the right to inflict endless war that can’t be won, a war that thus becomes itself an inhumanitarian intervention! Even worse, item 1b above directly contradicts item 5. It is correct that domestic terrorism needs to be fought with police work, not military assaults. Thus, bombing Islamic State/al-Qaeda etc. is immoral. And in my judgment it is doubly so because it cannot achieve its alleged end.

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