The Just War – from Augustine and Aquinas to Blair
Cranmer does not have time to outline the development of this theory. But it is presently constituted of four principal conditions: the threat of the aggressor must be certain; it must be the action of last resort; there must be serious prospects of success; the use of arms must be proportionate.
It is all now conveniently summed up in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Of course, the theory has evolved over the centuries, and the foundations actually pre-date Augustine of Hippo. But the conditions were written before the era of ‘weapons of mass destruction’, after which the concept of a pre-emptive strike became rather more important than a ‘certain’ threat or an ‘action of last resort’.
And so today Tony Blair justifies his war. And he does so standing on the shoulders of some of the world’s greatest theologians and philosophers.
But Mr Blair is neither a great philosopher nor a great theologian.
Notwithstanding that he has his own faith foundation, which is more than Augustine of Hippo or Aquinas ever had. And notwithstanding that, since his conversion to Roman Catholicism, he has sought to lecture another great theologian on matters of sexuality.
Today is Mr Blair’s dress rehearsal for his own Judgement Day. Sir John Chilcot is not quite God, and Mr Blair will not call him ‘Lord’.
But only because he has a ‘K’, not a ‘P’.
And Cranmer has no doubt that Mr Blair will swat away these irritable civil servants like flies. His defence will essentially be nothing more than ‘the hand of history was on his shoulder’ and he ‘did what he thought was right’ because he’s ‘a pretty straight kinda guy’. The war may have been insecure in ‘international law’, but Parliament gave its consent (in a way it has never done for any previous war), and this rendered the war legal.
We know that Mr Blair has been re-familiarising himself with documents and reading digests of the evidence given by previous witnesses. And he knows that he is not likely to be asked any questions that he has not already been asked, either by his Cabinet or Parliament, or by Hutton.
But the Chilcot Inquiry represents his last chance to justify the war, and shape the judgement of history.
His performance today is about his ‘legacy’.
And that long since ceased to be political: it is now acutely religious.
His political achievements, even leading governments of vast majorities which had the potential to make lasting revolution, were modest: academies, civil partnerships, minimum wage... He could have taken us into the euro, completely decentralised education, or completely reformed the Upper Chamber. Any of these would have been a revolutionary and lasting legacy. But instead he tinkered at the peripheries, compromising, blowing this way and that, always bending with the strongest wind.
But now he has his own faith foundation: the ‘Tony Blair Faith Foundation’, no less, which bestrides the secular world like a colossus. Well, not quite, but it is his church: it is the shrine to which they come from the four corners of the world to kiss. It is the inspiration for his theo-political quest for peace in the Middle East; the bedrock of his public life as world statesman; the cornerstone of his messianic desire to heal the world.
Spiritually, of course.
He tried to heal it materially, especially that ‘scar on the conscience’ Africa. But human nature got in the way.
So he has decided to tackle that first.
Tony Blair may be more conciliatory and humble today, but he will be no less defiant in his evangelism. When he is scorned, he will reason that a prophet is without honour in his home town.
He will have in his mind that Saddam Hussain started two bloody wars; the first responsible for millions of deaths. It was Saddam who flouted ‘international law’, for it was he who practised genocide upon millions of Shi’a Muslims and used chemical weapons of mass destruction on thousands of the Kurds. He was an abhorrent leader of a foul regime. He was ‘evil’.
And the world is all the better for his riddance.
Whether or not Tony Blair has a ‘Messiah complex’; whether or not he inhabits his own world of ontological Truth; whether or not he is unable to distinguish between his own opinions and those of God, on the Iraq War he was right.
The aftermath may not all have gone according to plan (if, indeed, there was any plan at all). But 50 or 100 years from now, the names of George W Bush and Tony Blair will be written down in history as those who brought democracy where there was dictatorship; who were saviours of a people who were oppressed; who brought light and hope where there was darkness and despair. And there will be statues and commemorative days of liberation, for Iraq, which was a creation of Britain from its inception, defeated evil and liberated its people.
Parliamentary democracy does not come about over night.
England should know.