Special Report

Tightly Tied to the New Iraq

To wage a just war, states must aim to punish aggressors or remedy a massive injustice. The goal is a more just situation than the one that existed before the resort to armed force, and the occupying power is obliged to do everything it can to prevent a worse outcome. Given this rough and ready framework of evaluation, what does an ethical exit require?

First, the country that has committed to, and completed, military operations must assess its degree of responsibility for the postwar situation. If its role was minor, its responsibility is proportionately diminished. In the case of Iraq, of course, the United States and its allies bear the heaviest burden. The United States in particular has a direct responsibility for postwar Iraq that no other country or organization shares. This state of affairs is obviously not ideal. A major power should bring as many allies on board as possible when it commits to war. Given what we know of U.N. stalling and ineptitude where dictatorial regimes are concerned, however, the formal involvement of the international community will often be impossible. The international community has a huge stake in the outcome and should help rather than hinder, but ultimate ethical responsibility lies with the powers that unseated Saddam Hussein.

The countries responsible for the postwar situation bear a major burden in repairing infrastructural and environmental harm that is the direct result of military operations. Civilian affairs teams should first concentrate on the basic necessities of life -- water and electricity, and then schools, hospitals, and other basic institutions of civic order. Repairing the political infrastructure is just as essential to creating a just peace. That means leaving the people in the invaded country, as well as the wider international environment, in better shape than before the intervention. Installing legitimate authority in Iraq is a delicate balancing act.

The occupying powers must also provide defense and security. If a country has been disarmed, the occupying power has taken on responsibility for its security and protection from external and internal enemies. How long this provision will be, and how extensive, will depend on the threats it faces and the speed with which Iraq can rebuild its own defense and internal security capability.

Finally, the occupying powers must react if yet another Saddam-type regime of fear begins to emerge. Even as the United States protected postwar Western Europe -- including a new democratic state in West Germany -- throughout the Cold War and decades of bipolarity, so the United States must remain tightly tied to a new Iraq. Just as the Allies would never have permitted a Nazi state to reemerge in Germany, so must the United States show vigilance with Iraq, should internal forces of stability and decency falter and collapse. The Iraqi people must not be victimized again.

Special Report

A Job Half Done

With great efficiency and military skill, the United States won an unjust war in Iraq. Then, with poor planning and inept management, the administration put at risk a just peace. Given this shoddy scorecard, should the United States simply withdraw from a place it never should have invaded?

Just war theorists are used to inquiring into the justice of a war's cause (jus ad bellum) and its conduct (jus in bello). Now we must probe the jus post bellum: What obligations does the occupier have and when are they discharged?

St. Augustine, one of the founding figures of the just war tradition, helped us understand that peace is not simply the absence of conflict. This understanding suggests that America's work is only half done -- if that. The invasion has created a moral obligation for the victors to maintain a measure of social order, while reestablishing the government and institutions of the defeated nation. The moral imperative during the occupation is Iraqi well-being, not American interests.

Accordingly, the United States and its allies must not depart until basic social institutions are in place or until it is clear that occupying forces are either unwanted or unable to contribute to the creation of those institutions. For those Americans eager for their country to get out of Iraq, it is tempting to argue that the U.S. presence is the cause of the insurgency and that withdrawal is already ethically proper. But that is only half correct: The insurgents will oppose any non-Sunni-dominated government, and the present Iraqi security forces are still unable to maintain order.

The United States should do all it can to see that a political regime, with the approval of a majority of Iraqis, assumes sovereign authority promptly. The January elections gave the next government a healthy chance at legitimacy, but the United States must still ensure the stability of the new government. When an independent and representative government of Iraq assumes power and tells the United States to leave, it should withdraw speedily. If it asks foreign forces to continue their presence or provide other forms of assistance, the United States must be open to the request. An unjust war must not become an excuse for leaving behind an unjust peace.