Pope Francis’ Advice for President Obama

In his statement yesterday on the conflict in northern Iraq Pope Francis helped to clarify the moral basis for military action against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and also defined its limits. President Obama should take some pointers.

In cases where there is unjust aggression, said the Pope, a moral duty exists to stop the aggressor. This is not an endorsement of war but a reiteration of the ‘just cause’ criterion for when limited military force may be permissible. It is a statement of the ‘responsibility to protect’ principle endorsed by human rights groups and adopted by the United Nations and most countries.

When innocent populations face imminent threat of attack, it is morally justified to take action to stop the killing. No nation alone should decide how to respond, the Pope emphasized. The determination of whether aggression has occurred and what should be done to stop it is up to the United Nations. The responsibility to judge and act belongs to the international community, not an individual country. The pontiff also emphasized that the imperative to protect does not mean bombing or making war.

President Obama on the other hand clings to the threadbare argument that U.S. bombing and drone strikes in the region are necessary to protect American military advisers based hundreds of miles away in Baghdad. The administration is claiming open-ended authority to launch military strikes and seems to be planning a protracted military campaign to counter ISIS.

No one objects to preventing extremists from murdering civilians and taking over cities and towns, but President Obama should follow Pope Francis’ advice and bring this issue to the UN Security Council. Let’s work with other nations to develop a comprehensive strategy for countering ISIS and cutting off its sources of recruits, weapons and money.  If further military action is deemed necessary, it should be multilateral not unilateral.

One thought on “Pope Francis’ Advice for President Obama

  1. In affairs of state, justice also involves proportionality, legality and collateral issues. If a group from Chicago had bombed a building in New York we
    would not consider it justifiable to bomb Chicago in the hope of ‘getting’ some
    of the perpetrators. With the recent beheading of a US journalist in Syria it is easy for Americans to not even think of how many innocent severed heads lay
    in the streets of Baghdad after ‘Shock and Awe.’ Indeed we do not even speak
    of it. We have not seen it and it is beyond our normal discussion. I doubt if this is the case in Iraq.To make a case for action is not so difficult. What action?
    And against whom? We speak of the surgical strike but there were many targets in Baghdad even though one man was considered the enemy.There may be those who can make a case for US actions but it would be a complex one. And in time of danger it is easy to overlook moral issues in a way that seems quite moral.It is also possible to be outraged by the actions of others
    without giving full consideration to our own actions and to what they actually inflict.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s