War is hell, war is pain and sorrow–unless of course it’s a Just War which is noble, heroic, every true Christian’s blessed jihad, and if you can swing it, fully authorized by the UN Security Council. Even if Just Wars both ancient (say, the Albigensian crusade) and modern (the starvation of thousands of Iraqis by UN Security Council-authorized sanctions) have been unspeakably nasty, Just Wars are still at least Just, so what’s not to like?
There are two ways to make your war a Just War, with all the fringe benefits. Please read carefully.
First, convince the world that the war is just by invoking the UN Charter and getting Security Council authorization. The law involved is less straightforward than the Scholastic neo-Aristotelianism that used to justify Just Wars, so you’ll be wanting to hire some lawyers. Less intelligent presidents will put angry anti-diplomats like John Bolton on the task, but cannier ones will hire smoother jurists like Harold Koh and Samantha Power to make the case in the dulcet tones of humanitarian NGOese. This is the preferred way of making a war Just nowadays, most likely a matter of supply and demand, as there’s no shortage of secular casuists graduating from the top law schools, and the US Department of Defense has 15,000 lawyers on hand.
The second way to make your war a Just War is to get the Pope to declare it so, or at least not denounce it as an unjust war. This may sound self-consciously retro, but new WikiLeaks disclosures reveal that it has never truly gone out of style. The story of how the US leaned on Pope John Paul II to support or at least be “positively” neutral on a number of recent wars has just come out from a cache of State Department cables leaked exclusively to La Repubblica/L’Espresso. The Vatican still commands a strong influence and not just over Catholics, which, as the State Department cables explicitly worry, can make coalition building awfully difficult for Washington if their war du jour does not agree with the Pope. For his remains the single biggest and most powerful grassroots NGO of them all! (Ponder this ye who think the answer to all our problems is more and bigger NGOs.) The Espresso story is fascinating reading, another reason to roll a little pocket change to the good people at WikiLeaks.