Questioning the Concept of a Just War

Regarding the article ``Applying `Just War' Standards to the Gulf,'' Feb.19: The most charitable comment which can be made about clergy who talk of ``just war'' is that their thinking is fuzzy. The Master Christian was very specific and unequivocal: ``Love your enemies.'' He even healed the servant of the high priest at the time of his arrest. D.R.V. Golding, Kaneohe, Hawaii

The ``just war'' doctrine is very interesting. Evidently the American Revolution and the US Civil War would fail the criteria. Scot G. Douglas, Costa Mesa, Calif.

The implication in the ``just war'' debate seems to be that decision-makers have an entirely clear view of events, and that totally rational decisions are possible. In fact, nothing is either clear or completely rational in the realm of international events. No one, especially not the leaders and fighters, enters combat casually. No one, least of all a soldier whose job it may be to drive the aggressors out of Kuwait, suggests that combat is a good thing. We are not dealing with a case of good versus evil, but rather with a choice among a series of evils. How much physical damage, how many artifacts and historical treasures destroyed? How many people - on both sides - killed and injured?

Those sitting in the warmth of their fireside chairs and their comfortable pews should remember that combat is never a clearly viewed nor easily controlled event.

Gary R. Hobin, Atlanta

The tragic war in the Middle East was one more example of the consequences of doing bad things for a good reason. The US had supported Saddam Hussein against Iran, despite his terrible abuses. Earlier we supported the Shah of Iran against democratic forces; he was overthrown by forces hostile to us. In Central America we supported tyrants in the name of anticommunism. In Vietnam, Chile, and other places, the story is the same. Policymakers are only human. They ought to realize their limited ability to foresee consequences. The lesson of history seems to be that bad actions eventually produce bad results, regardless of the reasons for the decisions.

Stuart Leitch, Chicago

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