War historians, political analysts and researchers have demonstrated evidence that war is as old as mankind. In prehistoric era, civilizations used to engage in armed conflict fueled by factors such as population pressure, consolidation of geographical areas and conflict over resources (McPherson 12). Presently, countries still engage in war for many other reasons that were absent during the prehistoric era, such as fighting terrorism, driving dictatorial political regimes out of power, and stopping other countries from developing weapons of mass destruction. Debate has been wide-ranging about the necessity of war in the 21st century, with anti-war advocates arguing that war is not a necessary ingredient to the progression of man (Landry para. 3), while war supporters counteract by arguing that war is necessary for the advancement and stability of the world. It is against this background that this paper aims to outline arguments demonstrating that war is still necessary in the 21st century despite its social, economic and political costs.
It is indeed true that acts of war unnecessarily claim many innocent lives, particularly civilians who are caught in the crossfire and who have absolutely nothing to do with the war. The U.S.
invasion of Iraq to dislodge Saddam Hussein bears witness to this fact as thousands of innocent Iraqis lost their lives while many more were maimed. The economic cost of the Second Gulf War is hard to quantify for both the invaders and the aggressed nation. But from the utilitarian perspective, the Iraq war is justified since it achieved a greater good to a large number of Iraqis, not mentioning that the world in general and the Middle East in particular became more stable after Saddam was dethroned and a new political order instituted (McPherson 15). Today, many more Iraqis enjoy a whole new range of freedoms and rights that they could not dare to ask under the dictatorial leadership of Saddam Hussein. Consequently, this war was justified by the virtue of the fact that most Iraqis can now enjoy their democratic rights and human rights, and people are no longer coerced to live in fear.
Some political leaders, especially in Africa, have been known to refuse to hand over power even after serving as presidents for decades. Recently, the world learned with shock how Tunisians have been subjected to the same president, Ben Ali, for over two-and-half decades. Presently, NATO forces are engaged in removing yet another political demagogue in the name of Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, who has been in power for over four decades but has flatly refused to cede power. Using the jus ad bellum (just cause) perspective (Suzuki 3), it can be argued that NATO forces are justified to participate in such a war that will benefit Libyans, economically, socially, and politically, once the heavy lid of the their dictatorial president is lifted. However, necessary caution need to be taken when progressing such an offensive to ensure that Gaddafi soldiers and his military installations, not civilians, become the target of the NATO bombings.
This will make the military campaign and any other military campaigns undertaken to dislodge static and unyielding political regimes more justified, permissible and valid. The U.S. is currently engaged in undertaking preemptive attacks against terrorist targets in Afghanistan, Iraq and in other parts of the world. Critics, human rights activists and other lobby groups have criticized these preemptive attacks, arguing that they only contribute to loss of lives and destruction of infrastructure. It would be irresponsible to support this line of argument while turning a blind eye on what befell innocent Americans in the infamous 9/11 terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.
According to the consequentialism view, the U.S., and indeed any other country, is justified to wage war on terrorists using preemptive attacks to destabilize the terror networks since such a policy will occasion the best overall balance of good over bad (Suzuki 9). Although it’s sad that a few innocent lives are lost during such preemptive attacks, the desire to prevent hundreds or even thousands of innocent lives that these terrorists are waiting with baited breadth to decimate renders justification to the war.
Lastly, some countries are known to attack their neighbors with a view to forcefully extract precious natural resources from them. It can be remembered that Iraq under Saddam Hussein attacked Kuwait for her gas, while Uganda, located in Africa, sent her troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo to forcefully extract gold and diamonds. In such invasions, the aggressed states are justified to go to war against the aggressors to protect their resources. Borrowing from the traditional view, “…war is permissible if and only if it is fought as being necessary to defend the attacked party from aggression” (Suzuki 5). It is therefore irresponsible for an aggressed state to sit back and watch her civilians being massacred by an aggressor who is only interested in extracting or ‘stealing’ resources for enrichment. To conclude, this paper has comprehensively engaged the utilitarian, just cause, consequentialist, and traditional perspectives to justify that war is still necessary in modern times. It is a well known fact that war initiates violence, which is generally impermissible in its nature and scope (Suzuki 4).
The reasons given for going to war, however, weigh heavily on the pursuit of a peaceful and stable world. Leaders and countries therefore need to be particularly careful not to tamper with factors, conditions or situations that may render justification to war.
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