What is a Just War?

Was 9/11 a declaration of war? Were we justified in invading Afghanistan? Michael Walzer thinks we were.
  • Transcript


Question: Was 9/11 a declaration of war? Was the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan justified?

Michael Walzer: I think we were justified in going. I thought that was a just war, a war of self-defense, because the people who attacked us in New York in 2001 were not simply a terrorist organization harbored in Afghanistan the way various Palestinian terrorists have office buildings, have offices in Damascus. It wasn’t like that. The Al Qaeda was an active partner of the Taliban regime and they had received from the Taliban regime, the benefits of sovereignty, crucially a territorial base, a place to organize to train, to train their people. And so that was what justified the war, it was the partnership of Taliban and Al-Qaeda that made it just for us to aim at overthrowing the Taliban regime. Where we went wrong--because we obviously did in Afghanistan--was in not committing the resources to political reconstruction that were necessary after the war that we fought and after the war against the Soviet occupation which we funded and supported. After all that we had responsibilities in Afghanistan which we did not fulfill, and we’ve now dragged NATO in--and it is a very good thing I think that NATO has come in--but even with the NATO forces there is not the commitment to political and economic reconstruction in Afghanistan that there should have been.