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Ius in Bello

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles ) | Mar 25, 2003

You can argue back and forth about whether the US had adequate cause to go to war. President Bush obviously said Yes; the Pope obviously said No. And I, frankly, had severe misgivings.

But you reallycan't dispute that the conduct of the US military campaign to date has been exemplary from a just-war perspective. In the history of modern warfare, has any nation ever taken such care to minimize civilian casualties, and to give the enemy every opportunity, again and again, to surrender without further bloodshed?

Just one example: American bombs have not disrupted the electrical supply in Baghdad, because that would mean shutting down the hospitals and schools. So the US foregoes an obvious military advantage, to spare civilians.

And the US is facing an adversary who deliberately seeks to maximize civilian casualties among his own people, for the sake of political advantage!

Traditional just-war teaching makes the just conduct of war (ius in bello) as important as a just cause of war (ius ad bellum). It's not always easy for civilians to judge the ius ad bellum arguments, because we don't have all the facts. But the conduct of this war can be seen on the nightly newscasts. And on the ius in bello front, the US deserves very, very high marks.

I'll be delighted to see Archbishop Martino, or any of the other Vatican officials who have scolded the US on the ius ad bellum grounds, weigh in on this one.

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