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Just War Theory Essay, Research Paper
Just War Theory: NATO Action Against Serbia
Years of aggressive European empires have left the area known as the Balkans
in an almost constant flux. The nation of Yugoslavia, originated in 1918, first
became stable under the leadership of Dictator Josip Broz Tito who turned the
nation to communism in 1945. However, with Tito?s death in 1980, the country
dissolved into several smaller countries. Presently the former state of
Yugoslavia is comprised of the nations Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina,
Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia. Within Serbia lies a region called Kosovo, an
area where over ninety percent of the citizens are ethnic Albanians.
Kosovo?s opposition to Serbian control of their region climaxed in January
1998, when a group known as the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) manifested its
plans to unify Kosovo with the neighboring nation Albania. In response, the
present Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic, ordered Serbian forces to police
the area. Within a short time, the Serbian forces also began to ethnically
cleanse Kosovo of all non-Serbs. The civil war escalated into an international
conflict in March 1999 when the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
intervened by bombing Serbian targets.
According to the most basic tenets of just war doctrine, NATO?s
militaristic intervention with Serbia in the NATO Yugoslav War seems to be
appropriate. NATO?s actions appear to follow the principles of jus ad bellum
as well as jus in bella. Their goal also seems in accordance with other
documents of sustaining peace, such as the Charter of the United Nations.
However, a more detailed analysis might suggest otherwise: NATO?s intervention
was not justifiable in account that the war was more for Western interests than
ending the ethical genocide of the non-Serbs in Kosovo.
In the extreme realistic view of war, or ?all?s fair? view, any action
is justifiable if it protects or advances the interests of the state acting.
This ideology strives on two tenets: ?(1) that any act in war is justifiable
if it seems to serve the national interest, and (2) that rightness depends
solely on the ends sought rather than on methods used to obtain those ends.?
The realistic view also follows utilitarian reasoning, which states ?behavior
is ethical if it brings the greatest good to the greatest number.? In this
perspective, NATO?s interaction was most certainly just.
Contrastingly, another view of war is the extreme pacifist view, that is
avoiding conflict or any violent action in every situation. No action is ethical
if an individual is harmed. In this case, NATO?s intervention would certainly
have not been ethical.
However, the current just war doctrine is neither of these extremes.
Contemporary politics attempt to follow something in the middle.?[T]here are
sets of ethical principles to consider when judging the morality of war? which
are ?justice of war? or ?jus ad bellum? and ?justice in war? or ?jus
in bella.? Together they are embodied as ?just war tradition?. Several of
these modern just war theory tenets are expressed in the UN Charter.
Article 33 states that any war must have a ?just cause? :
The parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger
the maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a
solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial
settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means
of their own choice.
Article 39 exemplifies the necessity of nation-states to make all attempts at
restoring peace and security:
The Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the
peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations,
or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to
maintain or restore international peace and security.
The UN Charter stresses that war is a last resort. In fact, the document goes
on to describe war as an act of self-defense. ?The principle of last resort
suggests that states should exhaust all peaceful means of resolving disputes
before resorting to military force, a condition that is easily met when a state
has been attacked and is merely engaging in self-defense.? These ideas are
expressed in Article 51:
Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual
or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the
United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to
maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the
exercise of this right of self-defense shall be immediately reported to the
Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and
responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any
time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore
international peace and security.
Just war tradition also includes other agreements, such as ?discrimination,?
which is ?the requirement that combatants respect the immunity of
noncombatants,? and ?proportionality,? which ?is met when the legitimate
aims sought by a state resorting to war outweigh the harm that will result from
prosecution of the war.?
In retrospective, NATO?s actions led to an end of the ethnic-cleansing of
the non-Serbs in Kosovo as well as doing so with minimal causalities. In fact,
with Milosevic having been dethroned in recent election, the possible
installation of Serbian democratic government seems to be exciting the region of
Kosovo. Reporters of the KFOR, the liberating army of Kosovo, document
enthusiasm. For example, the KFOR treatment of elections in October 28, 2000
demonstrate this situation:
After intense and thorough preparations, KFOR soldiers are ready to protect
and secure the first free, democratic political elections in Kosovo, which will
be held today, October 28. KFOR’s operational reserve has been brought in and is
on alert after conducting Air Insertion Exercises in the province?. To
underline the seriousness of KFOR’s treatment of this matter, a big strength
demonstration took place near Camp Monteith in the Multi National Brigade (MNB)
East prior to the election day. With the participation of KFOR British, Greek,
Ukrainian and U.S. elements, an Air Insertion Exercise was carried out in a
In that perspective, NATO?s intervention, the resort to arms and the
prosecution, meeting the above criteria, seems to both conform to the principles
of just war. According to British Prime Minister Tony Blair on April 22, 1999:
This is a just war, based not on any territorial ambitions but on values….
No longer is our existence as states under threat. Now our actions are guided by
a more subtle blend of mutual self interest and moral purpose in defending the
values we cherish. In the end values and interests merge. If we can establish
and spread the values of liberty, the rule of law, human rights and an open
society then that is in our national interests too. The spread of our values
makes us safer. As John Kennedy put it "Freedom is indivisible and when one
man is enslaved who is free?"
Blair states that the war is of mutual interest. The values of the NATO
nation-states are further established in the international world, and there is a
strong effort towards peace in Serbia.
However, just as there are several supporters of the war, there are several
critics of the intervention ethics practiced in Kosovo. Most critics focus their
discontent of the intervention with the ethics of NATO itself. These people see
NATO as an instrument for spreading Western culture instead of a device for
international peace. In fact, according to one critic Paul Treanor in Kosovo
Intervention Ethics, the intervention ?became a full crusade for NATO values.
The European liberal-democratic tradition is, increasingly, an ideology using
force to implement its values.?
As Treanor explains in Why Is NATO Wrong?, ?NATO has no moral basis: its
existence is wrong, let alone its interventions.? In ending the civil war in
Serbia, NATO served as ironically the non-liberating force in Kosovo?s attempt
at succession. The NATO belongs to a category of boundary-fixing entities, which
are probably inherent in all world orders constructed from one type of state?
And this function? is morally wrong.? Treanor elaborates: ?Any
secession-preventing, boundary-fixing organisation of this kind, prevents
innovation in state formation. It usually does this at the expense of a
minority.? In this type of action, according to Treanor is unjust.
Accordingly, a close analysis of the NATO would demonstrate this behavior as
First, the structure of the NATO reveals that since it is an alliance of
several nation-states, and therefore a representation of the beliefs of several
nation-states, it cannot be a fair representation of all the nation-states in
the war. Furthermore, the nation-states in the NATO are largely controlled by
the ?political and military elites.? Thus, a minority is created. It can
also be deduced then, since the elite officials of each nation-state of the NATO
control NATO, it therefore defends the political and militaristic tenets of
these elite. Accordingly, the NATO influences/ controls the non-NATO
nation-states in the following ways:
(1.)[T]he NATO enforces the permanence of each member state, restricting its
(2.)the NATO enforces the transgenerational nature of community inside nation
states – restricting individual freedom from inherited tradition,
(3.)the NATO reinforces attempts by nation states, to impose some form of
national core culture,
(4.)the NATO enforces the codification of economic and technological activity
along national lines, especially through national standards – restricting
innovation which conflicts with these national standards,
(5.)the NATO restricts the freedom of each individual to secede from the
nation of residence, although in eastern Europe the NATO sometimes supports
secession of national groups (and national groups only), [and].
(6.)the NATO enforces the contiguous territory of nation states. All of the
NATO area is covered by its members territory: there is no reserve territory to
found innovative states.
Furthermore, the NATO does not remain politically neutral, and imposes its
values on the non-NATO nation-states with coercion, if necessary. It therefore
strives, according to Treanor, to keep its own interests secure. This ideology
is not immoral itself; what is truly immoral is that it has the ability to kill
people to secure these values ?- to enforce a free market, and liberal
democracy,? securing the values in the process. In fact, ?[t]he NATO values
are stated explicitly in the speech by V?clav Havel? : ?Euro-Atlantic
values, especially the respect and care for human rights, democracy, the rule of
law and the free market economy?.
The idea of a ?moral crusade,? as expressed in the Prime Minister Tony
Blair quotation above, is exactly what critics like Treanor are against.
Intervention begins with peacekeeping. NATO values are enforced. When action
occurs, values are enforces. When NATO seizes the area afterward, more values
are interjected into the specific area, especially when the political leaders
are removed and a new government is created. Accepting help from NATO can be
just as harmful as not accepting help. Furthermore, the area being helped has
?conscientious objections? to these values, it is morally wrong for these
values to be forced upon these nations.
Treanor stresses in the conclusion of Why is NATO Wrong? that NATO is
influencing the dogma:
(1.)that Europe should consist of nation states
(2.)that consequently there should be no European-scale state, or entity
comparable to a state
(3.)that each state in Europe should be primarily allied to the United States
(4.)that the United States should be the ultimate arbiter, of the pattern of
states on the European continent
(5.)that the United States should station military forces in Europe, to
enforce this pattern.
In Kosovo Intervention Ethics, Treanor directly criticizes the specific NATO
intervention of Kosovo. The war was first seen as a ?rescue intervention?
legitimized by the suffering of ethnic Albanians.? Later, naturally, the
campaign in Kosovo became an ?ideological crusade.? Supports of the NATO
action stated the intervention was justifiable in that there was mass genocide
taking place. However, according to Treanor, this ?is not only a false logic:
it is also wrong in itself, to make such demands. It is standard practice, at
the NATO itself, to demand support on the basis of "opposed
atrocities" (and the ending of atrocities will be used to legitimise NATO
presence in Kosovo).? Political leaders use this language to rally the nation.
The truth of the matter relies in weighing if there is an obligation large
enough to risk intervening, and risk helping in a way that might not be
completely helpful to the receiver.
Ultimately, the decision whether NATO?s intervention into Serbia was in
accordance to just war tradition depends on personal opinion. Having general
faith in the United States government, and believing that it is a more noble
cause to spare at least one human live than not acting and thus avoiding the
brutal criticism that acting on the world scale involves, it is my personal
opinion that the NATO acting appropriately by intervening. A more important
opinion would come from the mouths of the victims of the ethnic-cleansing, the
center of the hurricane. I am confident that affected ethnic-Albanians of Kosovo
would accept any help, even if it might ultimately scar who they are.
Russett, Bruce, et al. World Politics. Boston: Bedford/ St.Martin’s, 2000.
Art, Robert, and Robert Jervis. International Politics: Enduring Concepts and
Contemporary Issues. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc, 2000.
Kosovo Intervention Ethics.
Relief Resource Center.
The Twilight of the European Project.
War: Internet Resourses.
Charter of the
The Exile: 101
Reasons Why NATO?s War Sucks.
Why Is NATO Wrong?
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