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This week's blog considers the issue of Just War in Iraq. It's results week - A level candidates if you don't like your mark, don't forget to order a photocopy of your script! Whether you appeal the mark depends very much on what you wrote on the day.
blog this week: Iraq and ethics - please add your comments!!!
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Just War in a Moral Maze
Pope Francis has endorsed the idea of just war in the recent upsurge in violence in Iraq, faced with the prospects of Christian and Hasidi minority groups facing murder and eviction from their historic villages. However, the moral maze we find ourselves in is a reminder that just war as a concept is hazy and difficult to apply, and based (one could argue) on a utilitarian assumption that we can accurately determine consequences and therefore know in advance when we morally ought to act. Like utilitarian ethics, this works fine looking backwards, but looking forwards? Almost impossible.
Consider these complexities (and these are just some).
1. The majority of Islam is Sunni - around 80%. These include Sunni Saudi Arabia and Sunni Kurds. So in this present violence in northern Iraq we have Sunni aligned against Sunni. In other words, there are many shades of Sunni and we shoulder careful not to lump them together.
2. The senior cleric in Saudi Arabia, Grand Mufti Sheik Abdul-Aziz Al-Sheik, on August 19th described ISIS as Islam’s number 1 enemy, and went on to say that ‘terrorism has no place in Islam’. But someone (?the Sunni states) bank-rolls the resistance to President Assad.
3. Nouri Al-Maliki, the Shia president of Iraq who resigned this week, had in June accused Saudi Arabia of financing ISIS, the Islamic militant Sunni group now controlling large sections of northern Iraq. He said Saudia Arabia is “responsible for supporting these groups financially and morally and for the outcome of that — which includes crimes that may qualify as genocide: the spilling of Iraqi blood, the destruction of Iraqi state institutions and historic and religious sites.” This was a pretext for the purge of Sunnis from senior posts in the Police and the military in June. This purge increased the likelihood that the Iraqi army would turn and flee, and that Sunni tribes woudl support ISIS.
4. America and Britain are now siding with Shiite Iran, part of what George Bush once described as ‘the axis of evil”. Iran has faced sanctions for a number of years imposed because of their continued nuclear programme. Britain has re-opened its conciliate there. Iran and Israel are sworn enemies.
5. The Kurds are being rapidly re-armed by America, France and very likely Britain. On the Turkish border Kurds have been fighting for several years for the establishment of an independent state. Turkey is part of NATO and our principal ally on the unstable border with Syria.
6. President Assad, fighting a bloody civil war in Syria, has been seen so far as public enemy number one by the West. We have given support to the (Sunni) Free Syrian Army in terms of vehicles and possibly weapons. It now appears we have changed sides and we are supporting Assad (at least implicitly) against ‘terrorists’ he has long argued have been waging war in his country.
7. The Free Syrian army has collapsed as a fighting unit, for a number of complex reasons, leaving the so-called ‘terrorist’ groups - Al-Qaeda inspired - to show the military muscle in the ongoing struggle.
8. ISIS is just as capable of killing fellow Muslims, either Sunni or Shia, as it is Christians and Hasidis. Now armed with American weapons captured when the Iraqi army ran away a few weeks ago, they represent a powerful and effective fighting force in a highly unstable region, which requires UK, US and French technology to defeat.
Can we do this without putting troops back on the ground? That’s the open question - but there is no doubt in my mind that it could come to this if ISIS can’t be defeated by a re-armed Kurdish peshmerga and a revived Iraqi Shiite army.
Peter BaronAdd a comment