When is a war just? It’s not so simple to determine.
That’s what Dr. Michael Walzer, one of the world’s leading authorities on just wars, told a group of students during a March forum on March 29-30 at Kean.
Walzer’s appearance was part of a two-day event focused on “Just War and Lasting Peace: Developing Ideas, Challenging Events,’’ organized by Kean’s History, Jewish Studies and and Holocaust and Genocide Studies departments.
The event also featured presentations by Dr. Eric Foner , of Columbia University and one of the nation’s most prominent historians; Dr. Jill Claster, a professor emerita from New York University and Drew Christiansen, editor of “America’’ magazine and known for his work on peace and justice issues in the Middle East for the Vatican.
During his half-hour presentation in the STEM building, Walzer talked about various war conflicts and the resulting view of whether they were responsible and just.
In the United States’ military actions against Libya, Walzer said he was against it.
“I’m not sure that was a humanitarian intervention,’’ Walzer said. “I thought it was a war for regime change and that’s not a just war to me.’’
The question of what’s a just war is bound to come up again in the recent conflict in Syria. Walzer said he thinks that an Arab nation should intervene there first.
In all interventions of nations, Walzer said at the least three things should occur: 1) within the country, the best group should be picked and it should be one that can win; 2) the arsenal of chemical and biological weapons should be secured and 3) physical safety of minority groups should be guaranteed.
When asked if it was justified on the United States’ part to enter Pakistan and ultimately kill Osama Bin Laden, Walzer said he believed the U.S. had “moral’’ justification.
“Criticism of that was less about a violation of Pakistani sovereignty but an issue of whether it was an execution without judicial proceedings,’’ Walzer said. “Sometimes, it isn’t possible to do that. The cost could be high for both soldiers and civilians.’’