determine if the Persian Gulf War was moral based on human standards.
Please write a response to this post agreeing and adding additional information.
Legal and Moral Justification for the Persian Gulf War
In 1991, 500,000 American service members deployed to the Middle East as a part of coalition and decimated the Iraqi Army in such a manner that the United States Army declares it to be “one of the most lopsided wars in history.”1 This complex military operation, which will be defined in this paper as “coordination activities across echelons across time to achieve specific political outcomes”,2 brought superior technology, a devastating air campaign, and highly trained troops to the war that rained defeat on the Iraqi Army.3 Even though the military operation was tremendously successful, this assignment will delve into military ethics and international laws to determine if it was morally and legally justified and if conflicts exist between these two justifications. By examining United Nations Resolution 678 and Public Law 102-1, analyzing military ethics, and supplying Biblical scriipture, the American response to the Persian Gulf War was morally and legally justified.
In 1990, President of Iraq, Saddam Hussein made the bold move to invade and annex the country of Kuwait.4 This was a unique situation. This was the first time in the history of the United Nations that one member had conquered another and “if the UN did not reply in a case like this, why have a UN?”5 On a global stage with a rapidly ending Cold War, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, this move needed a strong response. The U.S. and the U.N. needed to carefully weigh a response, since the world would be sent a strong message about how the two conducted business amongst the alliance. To this, the U.N. adopted Resolution 678, which demanded that Iraq cease its aggression and occupation in Kuwait which was legally weighted by previous resolutions of conduct amongst member states.6 Of particular note, when weighing moral efficacy in the future military response, the U.N. gave Iraq “one final opportunity, as a pause of goodwill” to stop its actions, thus, giving Iraq clear warning of what could result if they continued to oppose U.N. law.7 Not only was the U.N. legally justified, they were morally justified as well by giving Iraq a chance to pursue a peaceful option first. The U.S. when deciding its response to Iraq was similarly morally and legally justified. The U.S. chose to uphold Article 51 of the U.N. charter which provided collective self-defense to its members, chose to pursue diplomatic and peaceful means with Iraq first, and pursued its own legal codes and laws when authorizing the use of Armed Forces.8
In addition to the U.N. and U.S. following its own laws and procedures, the military response to Iraq will also be assessed through the legal philosophy known as legal positivism. Legal positivism can be described as the “state defines what is right and wrong in war, and soldiers may be judged according to whether they obey the dictates of the state.”9 From a moral and Biblical perspective, this could potentially pose a myriad of problems. This is further compounded by the fact that positivism “rejects the proposition that ethics can judge military action independently of power or states” and that morals of war are relegated to codes of law for soldiers.10 While this might be a problem when judging war through individual morality, war is a complex endeavor that cannot be judged by morals that are deemed acceptable between individual people. Helen Frowe points out that laws of war cannot be judged by individual rules of morality, because the nature of war makes it impossible to apply to individual morality, and any attempt to do so would only cause harm.11 Since war exists beyond what can be understood in individual morality, it becomes a difficult proposition to try and determine if the Persian Gulf War was moral based on human standards. If trying to find equality between the two, one can lean on the facts that the U.S. and the U.N. adhered to established laws, and they made attempts to peacefully resolve the situation first.
Since it is hard to find equality between the morals of war and individual morals, Scripture must be turned to as well. Unfortunately, war in Scripture also presents a quandary showing that war and individual morality can be different. In Exodus 6:21 when Israel defeated Jericho, they “destroyed with the sword every living thing”12 and yet Jesus says “to turn to them the other cheek”13 when dealing with enemies in Matthew 5:39.
Whether looking at individual and state morality from a secular view or a Christian view, conflict exists between the two. This is due to the dynamic, complex, and violent nature that is warfare. The argument is made here that the U.N. and U.S. response were both legally and morally justified. Legally justified, due to both following established laws, and morally justified due to the attempts at peace, and soldiers are expected to follow established laws of war. In the end, the U.S. and U.N. rushed to save one of their member states from oppression, and Jesus says in 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”14
1. Headquarters, Department of the Army, Army Doctrine Publication 1-0: The Army (Washington, D.C.: Army Publishing Directorate, 2019), A-9.
2. Keith Parish, “Introduction Video: MISC530 Military Operations”, January 10th, 2022, produced by Liberty University, video 5:26, https://canvas.liberty.edu/courses/250198/pages/watch-introduction-video?module_item_id=21246332
3. Donald M. Snow and Dennis M. Drew, From Lexington to Baghdad and Beyond, War and Politics in the American Experience, 3d ed. (New York: Routledge, 2015) 198-202.
4. Snow and Drew, From Lexington Baghdad and Beyond, War and Politics in the American Experience, 190-192.
5. Ibid, 192.
6. United Nations Security Council (45th year), Resolution 678 (1990) / adopted by the Security Council at its 2963rd meeting, on 29 November 1990. https://digitallibrary.un.org/record/102245?ln=en
8. 102d Congress. Public Law 102-1-Jan. 14th, 1991. https://www.govinfo.gov/link/statute/105/3
9. Alexander Mosely. “Legal Positivism.” Encyclopedia of Military Ethics. https://www.militaryethics.org/Legal-Positivism/8/
11. Helen Frowe. The Ethics of War and Peace. An Introduction, 2d ed. (New York: Routledge, 2016) 47.
12. Josh. 6:21 (NIV)
13. Matt. 5:39 (NIV)
14. John 15:13 (NIV)
102d Congress. Public Law 102-1-Jan. 14th, 1991. https://www.govinfo.gov/link/statute/105/3
Frowe, Helen. The Ethics of War and Peace, An Introduction, 2d ed. New York: Routledge, 2016.
Headquarters, Department of the Army. Army Doctrine Publication 1-0: The Army. Washington, D.C.: Army Publishing Directorate, 2019.
Moseley, Alexander. “Legal Positivism.” Encyclopedia of Military Ethics. https://www.militaryethics.org/Legal-Positivism/8/
Snow, Donald, M. and Drew, Dennis, M. From Lexington to Baghdad and Beyond, War and Politics in the American Experience, 2d. ed. New York: Routledge, 2015.
United Nations Security Council (45th year). Resolution 678 (1990) / adopted by the Security Council at its 2963rd meeting, on 29 November 1990. https://digitallibrary.un.org/record/102245?ln=en