As a former Nation contributor and a longtime Nation reader, I congratulate you for running Richard Falk's "Ends and Means: Defining a Just War" [Oct. 29]. It is a powerful antidote to some of the confused and retro thinking that has beset a certain segment of the left since September 11. Just as old generals want to fight the last war all over again, some veterans of the peace movement have a knee-jerk tendency to think this is Vietnam all over again, or even the Gulf War. But it's not. The Gulf of Tonkin attack never happened. September 11 did, with gruesome results. The world has changed.
Like Falk, for the first time in my adult life, I find myself supporting a war against a very real enemy–what Christopher Hitchens correctly calls "Islamic fascism." I appreciate the fact that Falk's endorsement of war against "apocalyptic terrorism" was nuanced, measured and admitted all the possible pitfalls.
I also agree that in retrospect the NATO bombing of Kosovo looks like not such a bad thing. Milosevic is gone, and the United States and the West helped to stop, albeit belatedly, the ethnic cleansing of Muslims–something bin Laden and the Taliban seem to have overlooked. Wars, even just wars like World War II, are inherently awful, but sometimes they are necessary, and sometimes, as in Kosovo, bombing actually works.
Richard Falk (a friend whom I admire and respect for his long advocacy of peace and justice) has said this is "the first truly just war since World War II." I have puzzled over this. How can a war be "truly just" that involves the daily killing of civilians; that is terrorizing the people of Afghanistan, causing hundreds of thousands to leave their homes to escape the bombs; that has little chance of finding those who planned the September 11 attacks (and even if found, no chance that this would stop terrorism); and that can only multiply the ranks of people who are angry at this country, from whose ranks terrorists are born? The stories of the effects of our bombing are beginning to come through, in bits and pieces: the wounded children arriving across the border, one barely two months old, swathed in bloody bandages; the Red Cross warehouses bombed, the use of deadly cluster bombs, a small mountain village bombed and entire families wiped out.
That is only a few weeks into the bombing, The "war against terrorism" has become a war against innocent men, women and children, who are in no way responsible for the terrorist attack on New York. I believe the supporters of the war have confused a just cause with a just war. A cause may be just–like ending terrorism. But it does not follow that going to war on behalf of that cause, with the inevitable mayhem that follows, is just.