Ukraine, Venezuela, and “Right Intention.”

February 23, 2014

The current anti-government protests in Ukraine and Venezuela raise an important issue from the Just War standpoint. Given that the protesters satisfy “Just Cause,” what next? Another Just War criterion, “Right Intention,” becomes important. Failing to satisfy that criterion would mean the protests are unjustified.

“Right Intention” is usually phrased in negative terms. The intention of rebels must not be to replace one tyrant with another tyrant, or to replace one corrupt government with another corrupt government. The intention must not be loot, revenge, or anything of the sort. However, negative intentions are not enough. Almost by definition, “right intention” demands that there be a positive intention.

As of this writing, Viktor Yanukovych, President of Ukraine, has left the capital of Kiev, but insists he is still President. The Parliament has set a near date for elections, May 25. That gives two months for opposition candidates to campaign. However, still amounts to temporizing. Neither the leaders of the protests, nor the leaders in Parliament, have given any hint of what their intentions are for after the elections. At this point we cannot judge the rightness of their intentions because they have not expressed any intentions except “Yanukovych must go.” That is at best a negative intention. Without a positive intention, the Just War criteria for justifiable revolt are not met.

The situation in Venezuela is even less clear. Mr. Maduro, elected President last year by a narrow margin, has expelled foreign reporters and American diplomats. He accuses the United States of fomenting the protests, and demands negotiations with the United States. Mr. Lopez, at least nominal leader of the protests, has simply urged his followers to “take to the streets.” He apparently has not made any statements about the goals of the protests. “Maduro must go” would not be a “right intention,” because it is a negative intention. The protesters and their leaders need to make clear some positive intentions for what comes after Maduro. Finally, it should be mentioned that Maduro is demanding negotiations with the United States over the protests. It’s not clear what might be the purpose of such negotiations. Maduro’s fight is with the Venezuelan people, not with the United States.    We have an interest in seeing the people of Venezuela have a government that respects their rights, but beyond that we are not involved. 

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