Bush's 'Iraq Project'

Can war be justified?

Jesus tells us to judge a tree by its fruits-advice that is not easy to apply when the tree is growing and the fruits have yet to appear. The tree that is the Bush administration’s Iraq policy has branches that in turn have branches. Some of these branches will actually bear fruit, but what kind of fruit is a matter of considerable uncertainty. Still, the tree already has a certain shape, and we can make some reasonable judgments about the quality of the likely fruits.

The Iraq project has been at the center of this administration’s attention for more than a year. I call it the "Iraq project" rather than something more specific because its purpose and justification have varied widely as it has come to greater definition. Thus the major objective has wobbled between getting Saddam Hussein to surrender his weapons of mass destruction and effecting regime change in Baghdad. It has also been a matter for political dispute whether the project will be a unilateral work of the United States, a common task for a comparatively small coalition, or a broadly endorsed enterprise of a global majority. As I write this in late February, I am in the predicament of not knowing how the story will turn out. Precisely for this reason, it is valuable to pause and assess.

• There are, I would argue, six varied and highly complex branches of the Iraq project. The first is an exercise in coercive diplomacy. On this branch we...

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About the Author

John Langan, SJ, is the Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Professor of Catholic Social Thought at Georgetown University where he teaches ethics and international affairs in the Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service.