Sunday, November 3, 2013

Idle Thoughts -- War, Justly Evil or Just Evil?

In your view, can war be just? Explain in detail, referring to the text.

Since I don't have a copy of the text, I can't do that part. I will give you a quick view of my opinions toward war which I have stated earlier, but the question requires a repeat performance.

Christians became obsessed with the idea of a just war as Christian belief evolved . After all, Jesus was the Prince of Peace. How could they, as Christians, get involved in wars? The answer was that some wars were just. If a war would accomplish good things, then to go to war was a good thing, even though Christ was clearly a pacifist.

(Okay, so I oversimplified. Ancient India and ancient Rome also had the concept of just war which the Christian fathers built upon. A just war was fought fairly and honorably for a good cause.)

There are many different theories about just war. Each one has its own particular justifications. Among the most common today are:

Just cause. You can't go to war for profit or gain. You must go to defend innocent lives. There is no other justification that is just.

Comparative justice. Even protecting innocent lives isn't enough in and of itself. You must be protecting so many innocent lives that the lives lost in the war will be justified. You also can't just choose one of two sides when both sides are threatening innocent lives. The effect of the war, at least your reasonable expectation of what the effect of the war will be, must be to do a significantly better job of protecting innocent lives than not going to war would have accomplished.

Competent authority. Dictators are not considered to be competent authorities. They rule over unjust systems and therefore do not have the right to ever decide on a war. If they do so, it will not be a just war. Only a legitimate ruler who rules by consent of the people can make such a decision

Right intention. Your motives have to be good. Pretending you're out to save innocent lives when what you really want is to grab some new colonies or loot some other country is not acceptable.

Probability of success. There must be a reasonable basis for believing that the war will be able to be conducted without an excessive use of force and still accomplish its goals.

Last resort. You may only go to war when you have tried every other possible alternative. Every bit of diplomacy must be used. Economic sanctions must be applied. Every kind of peaceful pressure that you can put on your opponent must be exhausted before you finally go to war because it is the only alternative left.

Proportionality. You must look at the expected costs of the war. How much damage will it cause? How many people will it kill? Will those be less than the results of not going to war? You can't kill 1000 people in order to save 100 people. That's not proportionate.

Then there's a similar set of rules for how to behave during the war. You can't torture or murder. You must fight an honorable and reasonable war.

Finally, there's a whole set of rules on how to make peace. Once again, they focus on justice, accomplishing your ends, and causing minimal harm and damage.

I understand this attempt. I feel very sympathetic towards it. But I think it's a total failure. Once a war starts, it always goes awry. An old military saying is that no plan survives first contact with the enemy. However carefully you plan, however skilled those who were making the estimates of what will happen and what the consequences which will result may be, things will go in a direction that no one can predict. That has happened in every single war. There are always unexpected consequences.

My conclusion is that the war is never just. I believe no war is ever good. I do believe it sometimes wars are unavoidable. Sometimes a nation is forced to go to war against its will. Sometimes a war is the lesser of two evils.

That doesn't mean it isn't evil. It means you will do less evil by going to war then by not going to war. That is not very comforting position to take. No one wants to do evil except the very sickest of the mentally ill. In the real world, you don't always get the choice. Sometimes you must choose the lesser of two evils.

War is always evil, but sometimes good men and women must choose the lesser of two evils. The decision will wound their souls and very likely their bodies. Yet it is a decision which must be made. That is what it means to be an adult in this world.

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