Prior to military action in the Gulf War, the United States went through a remarkable national self-examination, a six-month-long debate over the ethics and politics of any possible US response to Iraqi aggression in Kuwait. Politicians and op-ed columnists, talk-show hosts and their audiences, military officers and congressmen all entered the debate in terms frequently drawn from the venerable "just war" tradition - a calculus of moral reasoning whose roots go back to St Augustine. Was America's a "just cause"? Who was the "competent authority" to authorize the use of armed force? How could "non-combatant immunity" be protected? Was Desert Storm a "last resort"? One of America's foremost historians of the just war tradition, James Turner Johnson, analyzes the decision to confront Iraq militarily and the actual conduct of the campaign according to the classic just war criteria. George Weigel surveys the involvement of America's religious leaders in the debate and their faithfulness to the classic just war principles. He suggests that a "functional pacifism" may be the new orthodoxy among certain clerical elites.
"Just War and the Gulf War" concludes with a compilation of documents drawn from the moral debate over Operation Desert Storm, including many policy statements by the White House, the National Council of Churches and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.