Just Peace and the Asymmetric Threat: National Self-Defense in Uncharted Waters

By Novak, Michael | Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Summer 2004 | Go to article overview

Just Peace and the Asymmetric Threat: National Self-Defense in Uncharted Waters


Novak, Michael, Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy


I. PROBLEMS CONCERNING JUST WAR
  A. Waging War
  B. Waging War Against Non-State Actors
  C. Preemptive Strikes
     1. Timing of Preemptive Strikes
     2. Rational Decisions Leading to
        Preemption
  D. Applying Just War to the Current Problem of
     Terrorism
II. THE PROBLEM OF LEGITIMACY
  A. Legitimacy in Fighting the Iraq War
  B. Legitimacy of Post-War Government in Iraq
III. CONCLUSION

On September 11, 2001, the United States awoke sleepily on a warm, bright blue late-summer day; by 9:30 a.m., it was violently thrown into a new era of history. A non-state actor, a loosely unified yet tightly disciplined terrorist network, operating in some four-score nations around the world, had just put an exclamation point on the war it had declared some years earlier, a war that everyone else had simply tried to ignore. This lethal reminder of the war, through a set of "sneak attacks" that made the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor seem positively conventional, threw into disarray some of our classical conceptions about war. It forced us to rethink our notions of just war theory, on the one hand, and the legitimacy of various phases of subsequent acts of war (Afghanistan, Iraq) in addition to the legitimacy of turning to the United Nations, or going it alone, on the other. It has presented us with two new challenges we must face: making necessary revisions to just war theory and formulating new arguments about legitimacy in war and in peace.

Barely one hundred years after Mohammed founded the expanding faith of Islam in what is today Saudi Arabia, his armies had conquered all of the Middle East, all of North Africa, all of Spain, and were soon marching into southern France. There, in AD 732, they were hurled back. In 1095, after 300 years of suffering retreat, harassment, raids, kidnappings, and the enslavement of captives, the Christians of Europe began the counterattack, the First Crusade. They regained the Holy Land and much of the Eastern Mediterranean coast by 1099, and held these for some generations. By 1200, however, Muslim armies began pushing the Christian forces back toward Europe, and gradually reclaimed the Eastern Mediterranean as a Muslim sea.

Then in 1571, threatening Europe on its eastern flank, and aiming first at Italy's Adriatic coast, an enormous Muslim fleet under the Ottomans gathered in major ports in Greece. In August, a smaller Muslim fleet had taken Famagusta, the Venetian port on Cyprus, and brutally tortured its inhabitants. In October, the Muslim commanders expected their new assault on all of Italy to be just as easy. They believed it would open tip for them a major base in the total conquest of Europe.

Rather than heed the urgent calls of Pope Pius V to take to arms to prevent the loss of all of Europe to Islam, the Christian monarchs of Europe, now divided by the Reformation and many internal rivalries, dithered, dallied, and yakked.

The cold queen of England is looking in the glass:

The shadow of the Valois is yawning at the Mass;

From evening isles fantastical rings faint the Spanish gun ... (1)

In that vacuum, the young Prince Don Juan of Austria struggled virtually alone to put together a presentable European fleet, composed of squadrons from the Knights of Malta, from the Kingdom of Genoa and the Republic of Venice, from Spain and the papal states, plus a few stray ships from France and Britain. By September of that year, he managed to set this small armada to sea in order to make a preemptive strike on the Muslim fleet before it could come near to Italy.

By early October, Don Juan had lured the Muslim fleet out from its safe haven in the Greek Isles to sail into the Bay of Lepanto. So it was that on October 7, the Saracen fleet loomed into sight on the horizon in all its confident magnificence. So certain of victory was the Sultan that he had his treasure ships follow close up in the rear, for he intended to cut the smaller Christian fleet to shreds, and then sail on unimpeded for the conquest of Italy. …

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