February 12, 2006

Pentagon Prepares for Strike Against Iran

From Daily Kos and The Telegraph: The Pentagon is preparing for bombing raids against Iran's nuclear sites as a "last resort" option to prevent the Iranian government from continuing its nuclear program, which may or may not include the development of nuclear weapons. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) are among the voices speaking up for a preemptive strike against Iran.

In their 2004 statement, Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility, the American bishops expressed grave concerns over the preemptive use of force:

Catholic teaching calls on us to work to avoid war. Nations must protect the right to life by finding ever more effective ways to prevent conflicts from arising, to resolve them by peaceful means, and to promote post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation . . . While military force as a last resort can sometimes be justified to defend against aggression and similar threats to the common good, we have raised serious moral concerns and questions about preemptive or preventive use of force.

Both the late Pope John Paul II and his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, have been similarly concerned about the preemptive use of force.

It is important to note that military action against Iran could not be construed to meet just war criteria as outlined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2309):

  1. The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

  2. All other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

  3. There must be serious prospects of success;

  4. The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

A military strike against Iran would not meet any of these criteria. Since Iran has not attacked any other nation, and certainly not our own, a military strike against Iran could not be interpreted as defensive rather than preemptive as some interpreted the war against Iraq. Given the fact that the United Nations and the international community have just begun to work on ending the diplomatic conflict over Iran's nuclear program, it would be difficult if not impossible to make the case that all other means have already been exhausted. The prospect for success in Iran is even more grim than it was in Iraq, and in fact there is a good chance that attacking Iran could ignite greater violence in the Middle East and destabilize the entire region -- thus violating the fourth criterion of just war teaching.

My hope is that Catholics and other Christians who supported the Iraq War will think long and hard about lending their support to a military strike against Iran, which would be an even clearer violation of just war teaching than the Iraq War has been.