Iraq War In Terms Of Just War Theory


Iraq War In Terms Of Just War Theory

 It is said that Iraq is threatening international peace and security, and the United States defends to requires the use of force against Iraq. First, the UN decided to impose sanctions on Iraq on weapons of mass destruction (Taft and Buchwald, 2003: 559). The USA said that Iraq did not comply with UN sanctions and that it violated. The USA saw Iraq as a terrorist because of its connection with terrorists. According to the Just War Theory, it is legitimate for the state to use force to protect its citizens and defend itself.

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The USA, based on this, claimed that to protect itself, it could start the war as a legitimate defense and thus the war was based on a just cause. But the Just War Theory ignores such a thing. Because, unless there is an urgent threat, using force to prevent the attack in advance is not considered a just cause. Another reason for the war is that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Especially in cooperation with terrorist groups and having these weapons is a threat to international peace and security. Even if later research showed that Iraq did not have these weapons, this was still not a valid reason for war. If the use of force as a last resort after all roads has been exhausted, the UN is the competent body.

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The last reason for the war is the policies followed by the Saddam regime against its people in Iraq. Brutal policies in terms of human rights have been followed and humanitarian disaster has occurred. For this reason, the USA wanted to legitimize the war within the scope of humanitarian intervention. However, human disasters in Iraq are less compared to other countries. According to Walzer, who wanted to legitimize the Iraq War, the preventive war could not be justified, according to the fair war doctrine, but using a preventive force against the regimes that persecuted their citizens (Walzer, 2006: 107).

Saddam’s brutal policies on its people do not constitute a justification for outside intervention. For a fair war to take place, the international community must be unanimous on this issue. A decision in this direction must emerge from the competent bodies of the UN, or other regional or international alliances, special coalitions must support this war. Or one-sided action must be taken following the issues laid down in the UN Treaty. However, the Iraq war does not fall into any of these situations (Wester, 2005: 29). 

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The reason for starting a war is that Iraq does not comply with UN sanctions, but the UN is the sole authority in this regard to be a just war. If the war was fought with humanitarian concerns and to end human rights violations of the Saddam Hussein regime, international organizations such as the UN should have been legitimate authorities. Again, for a just war, the declaration of war must be made public in the national and international public opinion. To speak of legitimate self-defense, some situations must occur. First of all, the threat must be close, urgent, and serious. 

The real intention is one of the most important criteria of the fair war theory. In Just War Theory, war can be fought due to legitimate defense or a major threat. However, it was claimed that war was launched to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime in the Iraq War. Regime changes cannot cause just war, but they can have an impact. Therefore, a war to change the regime is against the Just War Theory and its real intention criterion.

The United States has claimed that there is a major threat from mass destruction weapons and that many people can die if they are used. A war to protect innocent people is justified. But then proportionality must be applied. In other words, the use of force should be used as little as possible, especially the use of lethal force. However, it has been observed that Iraq did not attack the United States or another state and threaten them. After all the roads were tried, if war was a last resort, war could be opened. That is why the US claimed that all roads were tried and that they resort to war as a last resort. There may be a justification for the fact that Iraq has not complied with the previously signed agreement and has opened fire on UN planes in the region with a flight ban. They also argued that their political and diplomatic options were exhausted and that there were no other options other than war.

 As a result, the UN Treaty is forbidden by states to use force. A war that is not based on the UN cannot be just, legitimate and legal. The USA provided many reasons to intervene in Iraq and to consider this interference legitimate. When these grounds are examined in the light of the Just War Theory, no reason seems to be a just cause. 


TAFT William H., BUCHWALD Todd F., “Preemption, Iraq and International Law”, The American Journal of International Law, Cilt 97, No. 3, 2003.

WALZER Michael, “Regime Change and Just War”, Dissent, Yaz 2006. 

WESTER Franklin E., “Preemption and Just War: Considering the Case of Iraq”, Parameters, Cilt 34, No. 4, 2005




Ayşe Selcan Akın is studying in the department of International Relations at Hacettepe University. She also attends the department of Local Government at Anadolu University. She is an intern at the Foreign Policy Institute. She speaks advanced English, intermediate German and Korean. She is interested in the fields of Security Studies, Foreign Policy and International Law.


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