Go to contents

[Op-Ed] Just War

Posted December. 14, 2009 09:30,   


On Nov. 27, 1095, Pope Urban II climbed on to a podium on top of a hill near Clermont, France, to urge a crowd of bishops and aristocrats to free the holy city of Jerusalem from Muslims. A year later, the Crusades began their mission with the People’s Crusade and in 1099, Jerusalem was freed. The campaign ended in failure, however, leaving behind a legacy of plunder and massacre. In March 2000, Pope John Paul II admitted that the Crusades were one of the Roman Catholic Church’s seven errors committed against humanity.

In September 2006, Pope Benedict XVI invited anger from the Muslim world for suggesting that Islam is a violent religion. His words were related to the West’s rejection of al-Qaeda and the Taliban’s emphasis on Islamic fundamentalism. Muslim scholars say the term “jihad” originally meant “invitation to Islam” but Christian ethnologists have used the term to emphasize the violence in Islam.

Soon after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S., then U.S. President George W. Bush called his war on terrorism a “crusade,” eliciting strong criticism from the global community, not to mention from the Islamic world. In his 1977 book “Just and Unjust War,” Michael Walzer, a social science professor at the Institute for Advanced Study of Princeton University, used behavior on the battlefield as the standard from which to differentiate just wars from unjust wars. Chiharu Takenaka, a law professor at Rikkyo University, argued that there is no just war.

Heated debate has erupted over the speech of U.S. President Barack Obama Thursday in his acceptance of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, in which he spoke of a “just war.” He defended the U.S-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by saying the non-violent movements of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., could not have stopped Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany. Korea’s decision to redeploy troops to Afghanistan will be meaningful only if the world acknowledges the cause of the Afghanistan war. A war is won not just through victory on the battlefield but through cause.

Editorial Writer Park Seong-won (swpark@donga.com)