Whenever President Bush wants to defend the morality of the wars we have fought, he insists that we fight for reasons “larger than our nation’s defense.” When Bush refers to our “good intentions” in Iraq, as he frequently does, he speaks not of our intention to defend ourselves, but of the intentions of American citizens to pay and of American soldiers to die so that Iraqis can hold a mob vote.
An injunction to go to war with altruistic intentions, seeking an altruistic outcome, is in direct contradiction to the requirements of self-defense; it forbids the very essence of self-defense in the context of war: identifying and defeating enemy nations.
To identify a nation as an enemy is to recognize it as a committed initiator of force that threatens one’s own life, that forfeits its right to exist, and that in justice deserves whatever is necessary to end the threat it poses. By Just War Theory’s moral standards, however, there is no such thing as an enemy nation. Even when a nation initiates aggression, it is not regarded as the proper object of retaliation, but as a haven of “others” to be served. (This notion is, unsurprisingly, rooted in Augustine’s religion, Christianity, which countenances us to love everyone—especially, as proof of extreme virtue, to “love thine enemy.”)
Observe that America has not gone to war with one nation since September 11. In each war, President Bush has made clear that we are in Afghanistan or Iraq to aid the “Afghan people” or the “Iraqi people,” and that we oppose only their current leaders. In the case of Iraq, he has made the well-being of the Iraqis, including the satisfaction of their religious and political desires, the overriding purpose of the war.
When I read Yaron Brook, I realize fully just how far the current war is from what we ought to be doing. It's rather depressing, but it's something that must be said over and over again and I'm glad he's saying it. The war we are fighting is primarily against ourselves. Our enemy is an expert in taking advantage of America's pervasive altruism. As I've noted before, his relative weakness prevents us from striking him with all our might. When we abandon that perverse moral code, the weakness of the enemy will no longer serve to shield him from us.