A righteous war is often defined in many ways. Here's what it actually means
A Righteous War
War: This word is often associated with imagery of gruesome deaths, explosions going off everywhere, and pure, utter mayhem. Some would argue that war in of itself is bad, one hundred percent of the time. But the reality is, even though they can cause the deaths of millions of people, they can be justified in some rare situations. But, where do we draw the line between what is considered to be a righteous and just war, and what is considered to be an unjust and unnecessary war? If the negative consequences of not fighting the war outweigh the negative consequences of fighting in the war.
Take World War II, for example. During the span of the war, approximately "15 million soldiers died in the battle, with approximately 45 million deaths occurring as well" (National WWII Museum). These numbers are extremely shocking, as they should be. But what would be the consequences if Britain and France had done nothing against Nazi Germany's consistent violations of the Treaty of Versailles, and if America had done nothing against Imperial Japan's outrageous and blatant attack on Pearl Harbor? As you can well imagine, it would have probably meant a globe-spanning Third Reich and Japanese Empire, with the utter and complete extermination of the Jewish, Slavic, Chinese, and non-Aryan populations as a result. Democracy would be a thing of the past, with Authoritarianism reigning supreme throughout the world. Can you imagine living under Fascist rule? Speak out against your government once and you're off to a concentration camp. One would shudder at such a thought. Without a doubt, then, World War II can be justified as a war to preserve morality and can therefore be considered a righteous war.
Another example of an obviously righteous war would be the Persian Gulf War. In August of the year 1990, Iraq under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, blatantly launched a full-scale invasion of neighboring state Kuwait, in order to pillage their vast oil resources. Kuwait was woefully underprepared for war, and thus became completely annexed in mere days. Kuwait was subsequently declared a province of Iraq, and over "12 thousand Kuwaiti citizens were murdered by the Iraqi military"(History.com) over the course of the next couple of months for defying the orders of their new supreme leader. As a result of this invasion, in mid-January of 1991, America with a coalition of UN forces, the likes of which haven't been seen since World War II, launched a massive attack on Kuwait, known famously as Operation Desert Storm. The Gulf War was started as a result, and after 42 brutal days of Allied bombing runs and tank divisions, Saddam Hussein ordered a retreat out of Kuwait (History.com), but not before lighting up and pillaging as many oil reserves as they could. The reason that this is an obviously righteous war is because of the disastrous consequences if Iraq had been allowed to stay in Kuwait: Thousands, perhaps millions of innocent Kuwaiti citizens would have been murdered, Kuwait would have been utterly bled dry in terms of money, and Saddam Hussein would have felt confident to repeat this invasion, perhaps setting his sights on Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arabian Peninsula next. This would have been an extremely plausible consequence had America not acted, since the Baathist party, the political party that Saddam belonged to, strove to "reunite the Arab people under one ruler and one country". Sound familiar? Think of the Nazi Party. The number of causalities incurred during the Gulf War would have been utterly insignificant next to the disastrous consequences of letting a megalomaniac such as Saddam Hussein possibly subjugate an entire race of people to his tyrannical rule.
But are all wars always this black and white? One famous example of a not-so righteous war would be the Vietnam War. Started by President Kennedy before his assassination, this war was famously escalated by President Johnson, who sent "3500 marines into Vietnam after North Vietnamese submarines had supposedly attacked American convoys in the Pacific" (History.com). Obviously, Vietnam did not go well for America at all, and a few years later American forces completely retreated from South Vietnam. South Vietnam, without the support of American troops, quickly fell to the Communist North Vietnamese, and Vietnam was consequently reunified under Communist rule. Was it necessary that America launch an invasion of Vietnam in the first place? Their only justification for starting the war was to stop the spread of Communism. In this particular war, it is not clear if the negative consequences of not fighting outweighed the negative consequences of fighting. No side held the moral high ground, as both American troops and North Vietnamese troops committed equally terrible atrocities. Ignoring the fact that America lost the war, was all the death that occurred during the Vietnam War worth it? Even if South Vietnam had somehow defeated its Communist counterpart, the South Vietnamese government was well known for committing atrocities in their aggressive campaign to force Christianity upon their mainly Buddhist population, so a Vietnam ruled by this awful government would have been just as bad, if not worse than a Vietnam under Communist rule.
Another example of a not necessarily righteous war is America's involvement in the seemingly endless Syrian Civil War. One could argue that our part in this conflict is justified, since President Assad is clearly a war criminal who has murdered his own people with chemical weapons countless times. But one side effect of the destabilization of a central government in Syria is the strengthening of anarchy and terrorism within the region. Also, many of the rebels in opposition to Assad are known terrorists, whose actions are just as brutal and inhumane as Assad's. In addition, the continued weakening of the Syrian government has led unwanted foreign powers such as Russia and China to bring their influence into the Middle East. So, what can truly be gained from America participating in the Syrian Civil War?
In conclusion, the general definition of a righteous war is if the negative consequences of fighting outweigh the negative consequences of not fighting. Although in some situations it can admittedly be hard to apply this definition, if American leaders were to abide by this definition more often maybe needless and senseless wars such as the Vietnam War can be prevented in the future. Hopefully, America will only get involved in righteous wars in the future, and not waste resources and manpower on useless conflicts.
The ideal audience for this essay is politicians and military leaders. The reason my essay would be best directed towards these people is that hopefully using my essay, these people can then decide which wars they would like to stay out of or get involved in. This essay shows that not all armed conflicts are worth fighting in, and that only some deserve American involvement. The purpose of this essay is to provide a clearer definition on what a righteous war actually means, since in our history, we have shown that we do not know what this necessarily means.
"Research Starters: Worldwide Deaths in World War II: The National WWII Museum: New Orleans."Â The National WWII Museum | New Orleans, https://www.nationalww2museum.org/students-teachers/student-resources/research-starters/research-starters-worldwide-deaths-world-war.
History.com Editors. "Persian Gulf War."Â History.com, A&E Television Networks, 9 Nov. 2009, https://www.history.com/topics/middle-east/persian-gulf-war.
"President Johnson Announces More Troops to Vietnam."Â History.com, A&E Television Networks, 16 Nov. 2009, https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/johnson-announces-more-troops-to-vie...